Harlan County will attempt to take out the frustration of two straight losses on rival Letcher Central in today’s district opener. The Black Bears haven’t been kind to Letcher in recent contests, outscoring the Cougars 148-20 in three straight wins in the series and they will attempt to continue that trend in the latest installment of the Friends of Coal Bowl.
“After coming off two straight losses to two very good football teams, a win of anything would be nice,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “It’s a rivalry game with the schools just right across the mountain from each other. We feel like it is important to keep the traveling trophy in our school.”
Letcher Central is currently 3-3 under first-year head coach Mike Halcomb. The former Breathitt County coach was known for high-scoring offenses during his time in Jackson and it appears he has made an impact on the Cougars. Letcher has scored at least 47 points in each of its three wins this season.
“We have to put pressure on the quarterback, because they like to throw the football a lot. We have worked extremely hard on pass coverage the last couple of week,” Larkey said. “We have had a good scouting report on them and their offense. I hope we can go in there and play well, and the kids remember what they have been taught the last couple of weeks.”
Harlan County has struggled to hang on to the ball in losses to Johnson Central and Greeneville, Tenn. The Black Bears lost seven fumbles combined in the first half of the last two outings. Correcting the turnover problems and improving fundamentals has been a priority for the Black Bears during the bye week.
“We have worked really hard on conditioning and fundamental blocking drills, tackling drills and handling the ball. We have tried work on some of the weaknesses that hampered us the last couple of games,” Larkey said. “We have focused a lot with hand-offs and hanging on to the football.”
Despite coming off of back-to-back losses, Harlan County should enter today’s contest with some confidence. The Black Bears have captured three straight district championships and are unbeaten in their last 12 games against a district opponent.
“We set our goal to win the district and take each team one at a time. We want to win all three games and go from there. It’s real important to win the first one if you want to reach the goal of winning the district,” Larkey said. “We don’t want to get too overconfident against any team we play right now, but we do feel like we can win if we go out there and play the best we can and not make mistakes like have last couple games. We have to go in motivated and play extremely well.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.