Harlan’s home finale against Jenkins will a special occasion for a variety of reasons. In addition to Friday’s contest serving as Breast Cancer Awareness and Senior Night, the Green Dragons will also be playing for a home playoff game. Harlan can wrap up the district’s second seed and assure itself of staying at home in the first round of the postseason with a win over the visiting Cavaliers.
“It is all about a home playoff game again. Of course, it will be Senior Night and there will be a lot of emotions,” Donahue said. “
Jenkins got off to one of its best starts in recent memory, with victories over Phelps, Allen Central, Paintsville and Jackson County in its first five games. However, the Cavs have struggled as of late, losing three straight heading into today’s contest.
“We were playing teams close to our caliber (early in the season),” said Jenkins coach Eric Ratliff. “I guess we were surprising teams where we hadn’t been successful in the past. We had a good fast start at Phelps and gained confidence in that. Good things were happening early for us.”
Much of Jenkins’ recent slide can be attributed to the loss of several key players. Freshman quarterback Andrew Oliver is likely out this week. Running back Ryan Bentley left the team, and a trio of offensive linemen have also missed time.
“We’ve lost four starters since week six, and Harlan is in a similar situation. When you dress 26 kids, then lose four or five, it’s a huge thing,” Ratliff said. “You replace them with kids not even close to being ready. Our right tackle suffered an ACL injury. Our left tackle has a high ankle sprain and may be back. Our right guard had pneumonia and missed the last two weeks. Ryan Bentley was our leading scorer, and he left school. Then we lost our quarterback two weeks ago and he had over 600 yards rushing and 800 passing.”
Jenkins jumped out to a 22-0 lead over the visiting Dragons in the opening minutes last year before Harlan rallied for a 52-28 win. Donahue said he hopes that memory will stick with the Dragons in this year’s contest.
“We can’t afford a letdown against this team. They are very improved at running the football. Coach Ratliff and his guys have done a good job of getting those kids some confidence,” Donahue said.
It will be a large group of seniors that lead the Dragons in their final regular season home game. Ty Saragas orchestrates the offense and has 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns. David Allen is the top target at receiver, hauling in 28 catches for 494 yards. Cody Logan leads the rushing attack with 549 yards, and Dakota Morris has added 272 yards. Senior linebackers Ryland Atkins and Okey Boggs lead Harlan in tackles with 61 and 52, respectively.
“It has been a very talented group. They went to the regional championship as freshmen and have been to the playoffs every year. They have kind of changed the philosophy a little bit,” Doahue said. “They have a bright future in front of them.
Harlan enters the contest at 4-4, and the Green Dragons have been up and down throughout the season. That inconsistency, was on display again last week as a 27-point lead nearly evaporated in the fourth quarter of a victory over Pineville. Donahue said he will be looking for improved consistency, especially with the playoffs only two weeks away.
“That is not a word that is strange to our kids by any means. I have preached consistency to our kids all year. That is what we are looking for,” Donahue said. “After last week I think we can add the word finish to it.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with Senior Night ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m.