A rare halftime deficit woke up the Harlan County Black Bears in the Southeastern Kentucky Conference junior varsity playoffs on Monday. Trailing by six at the break, top-seeded Harlan County exploded for 26 points in the second half to pull away for a 32-12 victory over Bell County in the semifinals.
“I told them not to panic at the half. They started to knock people around in the second half and play Black Bear football,” said Harlan County coach Eddie Creech.
Harlan County opened the scoring as Bobby Huff went in on a 5-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ opening drive to make it 6-0.
Bell County scored both of its touchdowns in the second quarter. Junior Dalton Brummett connected with Corey Swanner on a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to tie the game with 6:34 left in the first half.
The Bobcats took the lead when Chase Woolum broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run with 2:43 remaining in the second period. The two-point pass failed and Bell County led 12-6.
Harlan County dominated in the final two quarters.
Huff set up Harlan County’s first score of the half when he recovered a Bell County fumble at the Bears’ 22.
Sophomore Zach Jenkins energized the Bears with several powerful runs that moved the ball to the Bell County 9. Nick Cornett tied the game when he scored on a reverse from seven yards out on fourth down.
“The first word to describe Zach is physical. He is a big and skilled kid,” Creech said.
Huff put the Bears up early in the fourth quarter, when he scored on a 42-yard run. Fred Massey added the two-point conversion to make it 20-12.
Isaac Mitchell recovered a fumble at Bell County’s 17 to set up the Bears’ next score. Huff capitalized with a 15-yard touchdown run with 5:54 left in the contest. The two-point run failed and Harlan County led 26-12.
Huff intercepted a pass at midfield to end the Bobcats next drive. Jenkins later closed the scoring on a 30-yard run with 1:13 remaining.
“Bobby has a motor that you can’t coach. He is non-stop all the time and plays hard between the whistles,” Creech said.
Harlan County will host either Knox Central or Clay County in the SEKC junior varsity championship on Monday.