To say Harlan and Middlesboro have taken different path’s to today’s week four contest would be an understatement. While the rebuilding Green Dragons are trying to recover from a heartbreaking loss at Lynn Camp, Middlesboro enters the contest fresh off of its first victory over rival Bell County in 17 seasons.
The Yellow Jackets are off to a 3-0 start and are currently ranked sixth in the state in Class 2A. Randy Frazier’s squad has been one of the more pleasant surprises in southeastern Kentucky in the early season and has an opportunity to win its first four games for the first time in more than 15 years.
“Last week was a big win for our community and our kids. It’s probably the biggest win for this program since I have been here,” Frazier said. “But, with the job that J.B. does, you have to be ready to play on Friday. I don’t care what your record is.”
Middlesboro has no shortage of weapons on the offensive side of the ball.Ryan Pittman leads the team with 33 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, while Seth Barton has added 250 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Major Edwards is a dual-threat at quarterback. The junior has completed 27 passes for 381 yards and added another 197 yards on the ground. Edwards’ favorite targets are junior Ryan Pittman and senior Austin Poindexter. The receiving duo has combined for 15 receptions on the season.
“Middlesboro has good team coming in here. They do a good job. They are really good up front and have two or three guys that run the ball well. Then they have a couple of dangerous receivers on the outside,” said Harlan coach J.B. Donahue. “They give you all the problems you can handle.”
The Yellow Jackets were impressive in the ground game in last week’s 28-14 victory over Bell County. Middlesboro piled up 52 rushes for 242 yards and three touchdowns against the Bobcats. Containing the Jackets’ rushing attack will be a focal point for Harlan.
“You always have to start with stopping the run and go from there. We will try to build on that,” said Donahue. “We want to have some success on offense and keep the ball away from them. If you don’t have the ball you can’t score. Having offensive success helps your defense.”
Harlan also relies heavily on success on the ground. The Dragons have moved from a spread passing attack to a read-option out of the shotgun this season. The offensive change gives Harlan several options to carry the ball on any play, making it important for the Jackets to stay disciplined defensively.
“They have moved to a read offense and are coming a lot out of the gun. We have to play assignment football because you don’t know where they are going to go a lot of times,” Frazier said.
Harlan will enter today’s contest as a heavy underdog, but Donahue hopes recent success against Middlesboro will help his team in the latest meeting.
“Hopefully, the kids know they can play with them. We have to play really well,” he said. “This is another week for us to get better against a good football team.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.