Harlan isn’t accustomed to being on the road in the first round of the playoffs. The Green Dragons have hosted at least one playoff game every year since 2008, but will find themselves away from home on Friday. The Dragons will attempt to extend their streak of five straight seasons with a postseason win in the Class A playoff opener this week at Campbellsville.
Harlan enters the playoffs at 2-8, but the Dragons could just as easily be sitting on four wins. HHS fell to Leslie County and Lynn Camp by a combined six points during the season. None of that matters now, and a victory over the Eagles could erase any memories of regular season struggles.
“A playoff win on the road would send the seniors out on a good note. We have lost a couple we should have won, but that can be eliminated with a win on Friday,” said Harlan coach J.B. Donahue.
Campbellsville opened the year with seven straight losses, but has been impressive in recent weeks. The Eagles closed the season by outscoring opponents 128-14 in three straight blowout victories. They earned the district’s second seed with routs of district foes Lynn Camp and Berea.
“We tried to sell the kids on playing a tough schedule early on. We felt if we could weather the storm that we could earn a home playoff game,” said Campbellsville coach Dale Estes. “Playing at home is very important. The kids feel a little more comfortable in their house.”
Estes said the turnaround occurred with a change in philosophy following a 47-0 loss to Williamsburg.
“We just simplified things on offense and defense. We are trying to not do so many things and have the kids think so much. They are able to just go out there and have fun,” Estes said.
The Campbellsville offense is led by dynamic athlete Kendon Young. The sophomore started out at receiver before moving into the backfield in week 7. Young has emerged as one of the top Class A players in the region for the Eagles. He has ran for 450 yards and four touchdowns in the past two outings.
“(Young) has a lot of speed. He is their go-to guy. They have got a couple of other weapons. Their quarterback is a good weapon and they have a good tight end. But, (Young) is the one you have to stop. He is the one that makes them go and can really run. We have to contain him and not let him get to the edge.
The Green Dragons will attempt to slow Young, by keeping the tailback in the middle of the field. The Dragons will also look to keep the ball out his hands by relying on their own ground game. Harlan will look to chew up yardage and the clock behind an experienced offensive line and senior standout Cory Chorak.
“We have to try to control the line of scrimmage. We need to run the football and keep it away from their offense. We have to try to run the football with success and throw it when they give it to us,” Donahue said.
With his team three hours from home in the playoff opener, Donahue knows the start of Friday’s contest will prove to be especially important.
“When you are playing on the road in somebody else’s house, it’s important to get off to a good start. We hope it bounces our way early and we can gain some momentum,” he said.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.