CORBIN — Scrimmages like the Southeastern Kentucky Conference Gridorama are designed to provide a look at what high school football teams need to work on before the games start counting.
Harlan County coach Tom Larkey found plenty of areas to place on his to do list before the Black Bears play Bryan Station a week from Saturday.
The Bears played defending 3A state runner up Wayne County to a scoreless tie at halftime and a 6-6 tie midway through the second half when the starters for both teams went out. A late touchdown pass gave the Cardinals a 13-6 win.
“We weren’t doing much out there,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “We have a lot of young kids out there and have to develop more of a physical attitude. We have to get better. We have a tough schedule to play. We have to run low and get those extra yards and tuck it like I want them to tuck it.”
Wayne broke the tie on its first possession of the second half as Logan Gardner caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Stetson Simpson. Dalton Southwood missed the extra point and the Cardinals led 6-0.
Harlan County answered with its most impressive drive of the evening, marching 65 yards in 14 plays. The Bears’ offensive line, expected to be a strength for the team with three starters returning, took over after a less than sterling first half.
“I didn’t give our offensive line a bit of credit at the half because they didn’t do what they are capable of doing. If we don’t get more out of them it’s going to be a long, hard struggle,” Larkey said. “When they decide they want to block and we can find some people who want to run the ball hard and tuck it in and battle we might be a pretty good offense. We have to learn to tuck the ball and run harder and run north, not east and west.”
Junior tailback Dylan Cornett had nine carries in the drive and senior fullback Hunter Lewis added three. Quarterback Jarett Ford, a junior, found senior wide receiver Nick Cornett for a 13-yard reception to start the drive.
Cornett had the final four carries, including a 4-yard touchdown burst up the middle. Cornett was stopped just short on the two-point conversion attempt.
“Dylan did make some plays, but he can be better, so can the whole team,” Larkey said.
Junior varsity players for both sides took over at that point. The Bears stopped Wayne on the first possession, then picked up two first downs when they got the ball as quarterback Jacob Branson ran for 13 yards and tailback Morgan Day ran for 10.
The Cardinals struck quickly when they got the ball back as German Ruiz ran 22 yards before Grant Shoemaker teamed with Lorenzo Lindsey two plays later for a 35-yard touchdown with a minute to play. Dalton Southwood hit the extra point.
The first half was dominated by defense with Harlan County picking up four first downs and Wayne County getting two.
Harlan County had a first down on its opening drive as Bobby Huff picked up four yards and Hunter Lewis followed with 10.
Dylan Cornett had a 19-yard run on the Bears’ second possession.
The Bears put together their best drive late in the first half as Jake Ball picked up one first down on a run. He fumbled on the play but tackle Bo Harris recovered. Nick Cornett caught a 21-yard pass from Ford for another first down to the Wayne County 31. The drive stalled after three straight incomplete passes.
Harlan County will play Bryan Station on Aug. 23 at Madison Central in the Roy Kidd Bowl.
Harlan face Williamsburg on Friday in the second session of the SEKC Gridorama at Knox Central.
The Dragons are coming off a 2-9 season and were hit hard by graduation.
Senior quarterback Tanner Morris will be counted on to provide both a running and passing threat for the Dragons. Standout sophomore tackle Thomas Morgan leads the offensive line.
The Dragons lost leading rusher Cory Chorak to graduation. Nick Powers and Peyton Dillman will share time at fullback with Kendal Brock, Matt Bailey and Holden Williams alternating at the two halfback slots.
Senior linebacker Tye Patrick is back to lead the Harlan defense.
Williamsburg, a former district rival of Harlan’s, was 11-3 last season and made the deepest playoff run in school history, downing Hazard 21-7 in the regional finals and Raceland 34-7 in the state semifinals before falling 42-0 to Mayfield in the Class A state championship game.
Skyler Griffith (46 catches for 884 yards), a senior, shifts from wide receiver to quarterback. The Jackets also added one of the state’s top running backs in senior Fred Massey, a transfer from Harlan County.
The top 10 tacklers from a year ago are back from a unit that collected five shutouts, led by senior linebackers Jefferson Patrick (and his team-high 155 tackles), Michael Rose-Creekmore and Massey, along with standout senior tackle Chris Helton.
Also back on offense are Corey Shelton, who had 54 catches for 1,127 yards; Chase Lowrie, who had 28 catches for 435 yards; and Creekmore, who added 19 catches for 148 yards. Patrick ran for 726 yards and scored 12 touchdowns at fullback.