Kevin Whitaker showed flashes of his considerable potential as a sophomore quarterback for the Leslie County Eagles in 2013.
A year older, wiser and stronger, Whitaker demonstrated Friday he may be ready to take the next step as one of the better quarterbacks in the region. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior was the difference as the Eagles took control in the second quarter on the way to a 28-0 win over visiting Harlan in a game that was stopped midway through the third quarter after a lengthy lightning delay.
Whitaker completed six of 11 passes for 132 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran the ball six times for 41 yards.
The Eagles limited Harlan to only 55 yards on the ground and two through the air. Leslie had a 12-4 advantage in first downs.
Harlan missed an opportunity to take the lead early after Nick Jarvis recovered a fumbled punt on the Lynn Camp 32. The Dragons picked up two first downs, including an 11-yard run by Kendal Brock to the Leslie 10. Tanner Morris picked up six more yards on the next carry before the drive stalled. Peyton Pugh knocked the ball away from Drew Parks as he rolled out, but the Dragons recovered on the Eagles’ 24. Boone Allison’s 42-yard field goal attempt fell short.
Whitaker used his feet to help the Eagles break the ice on offense, running for 14 yards for a first down on the Leslie 24 after a pass interference penalty on the Dragons two plays earlier on a third-and-13 play kept the drive alive. Austin Smith went 17 yards for a first down on the 1, and Whitaker went into the end zone behind left guard on the next play. Shaun Baker’s extra point gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first half.
Whitaker then went to the air to put Leslie in control, connecting with Josh Bray for a 24-yard scoring pass with 4:56 left, only two plays after Pugh had recovered a fumble. Wes Farley blocked the extra point attempt but the Eagles led 13-0 with 4:56 to play in the second quarter.
Another three and out put the Leslie offense back in business. Two procedure penalties against the Dragons gave Leslie one first down before Whitaker threw his best pass of the night, finding James Brock near the sideline. The senior wide receiver, who had two touchdown catches in last year’s season-opening 26-21 win at Harlan, dodged Kendal Brock near the sideline and went in for a 65-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles picked up two points with some trickery on the conversion as James Brock, the holder on extra points, found Conner Bray with a shovel pass as Leslie’s lead grew to 21-0 with 54 seconds left in the half.
Another Harlan fumble, this one recovered by Blake Asher, set up the next Leslie touchdown. Whitaker found Brock open across the middle on a screen pass and he broke free for a 27-yard touchdown. Baker’s extra point stretched the lead to 28 with 8:10 left in the third quarter.
Harlan (0-1) will have two weeks off before returning to action Sept. 12 at home against Lynn Camp.