Winning a district championship is never easy, but the Harlan County Black Bears are trying their best to prove otherwise. Harlan County earned its fourth straight district title Friday with a 57-12 rout of visiting Perry Central. The Black Bears defeated district opponents by an average of 44 points this season — scoring at least 49 points in all three contests, while giving up no more than 12 in any game.
“We have dominated our district ever since that first year,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey.
Harlan County scored early and often in the first two quarters to put the game away by the half. The Black Bears scored on each of their six first-half possessions.
Fred Massey carried the ball four times for 26 yards on the opening drive to move the ball to the Perry Central 22. Senior Carson Whitehead took over from there and found the end zone two plays later. Fellow senior Zach Chitwood ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
After forcing the Commodores into a three-and-out, Whitehead broke free for a 69-yard scoring run just three plays later. Cole Wilson added the extra point to put the Bears up 15-0.
Perry Central had a rare bright spot on its next drive. Junior Nathan Pray completed three passes for 46 yards on an eight-play drive, including a 30-yard strike to Tyler Fugate.
“The kids just got confused on their coverage that they worked on in practice. They got caught in their tracks too,” Larkey said.
Harlan County quickly answered with another score. Massey capped a five-play drive with a 3-yard score. Massey also ran in the two-point conversion to push the lead to 23-6 with 1:24 left in the opening quarter.
The Harlan County defense recorded another stop on the ensuing Commodore possession. Massey carried the ball seven times for 47 yards on the drive to set up an 8-yard scoring run by Whitehead. Senior quarterback Scotty Bailey found Josh Lee for the two-point conversion to make it 31-6 with 5:46 left before the half.
The Black Bears tacked on two more scores to close out the second quarter. Bobby Huff picked off a pass at the Perry Central 20 and returned the interception 19 yards to set up his own 1-yard score on the next play. Wilson nailed the extra point. Harlan County forced the Commodores into a three-and-out to set up a 6-yard touchdown run from Bailey to close the first-half scoring and give the Bears a 45-6 lead.
With a running clock already in effect, Perry Central scored its final touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter. Sophomore Seth Napier delivered a 7-yard pass to John Toomer for the score.
Harlan County responded just three plays later, when senior Chitwood raced into the end zone from 36-yards out.
The HC reserves turned in the game’s final score. Freshman Kennon Napier carried the ball seven times for 32 yards, including an 11-yard score with just under a minute remaining.
Harlan County controlled both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage against the Commodores. The Bears’ o-line paved the way for 398 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 45 carries. Massey led the way with 115 yards and one score on 17 carries. Whitehead had 108 yards and three touchdowns on just eight touches. Meanwhile, the HC defensive front limited Perry Central to 11 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“That could be the difference in how much time we put in the winter and how much they do. In games like this, that is really when it pays off for us,” Larkey said.
Harlan County (6-3 overall, 3-0 district) returns to action next week at Bell County in the regular season finale. Perry Central (4-5 overall, 1-2 district) will host Pike Central.