The Harlan County Black Bears put visiting Madison Southern away late to advance to their third straight regional championship. Harlan County scored twice in the final four minutes to pull away for a 41-24 win on Friday.
The Bears piled up 429 yards on 53 carries on the ground. Harlan County received contributions from several players, with junior Treyvon Long leading the way with 169 yards on 15 carries, primarily out of the Wildcat formation. Scotty Bailey had 104 yards on 17 carries, and Jake Middleton added 82 yards on 15 carries.
“We have several different types of offenses. If people line up to stop our power game we will do something else that works. We have multiple sets and can do different things,” said Harlan County coach Tom Larkey. “They had six people on the line and were blitzing the linebackers. They were diving down at our feet, and you can’t drive people out. They were also chopping our blocking backs. It’s hard to power game whenever they are cutting your legs out from under you.”
Harlan County also had success through the air. Bailey completed five-of-seven passes for 121 yards and a pair of scores. Junior Cole Wilson hauled in four passes for 90 yards.
Madison Southern struck first as Adam Simpson connected with standout sophomore Damien Harris on a 72-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the game. The extra point made it 7-0.
Madison Southern recovered a Middleton fumble to end Harlan County’s first possession. The Eagles moved the ball to the Bears’ 26, but Cole Wilson brought down Harris in the backfield on fourth-and-one.
The Bears capitalized on the stop. Wilson turned in the big play of the ensuing drive when he broke free for a 45-yard run to the Eagles’ 22. Long closed the drive with a 5-yard scoring run with 3:59 left in the first quarter. Wilson’s kick tied the game at seven.
Harlan County took the lead early in the second quarter as Bailey connected with Long on a 31-yard touchdown pass with 10:11 remaining in the period.
After a Madison Southern field goal, the Bears looked to take control late in the first half as Bailey found Cole Wilson all by himself down the right sideline for a 56-yard score. Wilson added the extra point to make 21-10 with 41 seconds left in the second.
“We faked the jet and then sent (Cole) on a streak. There wasn’t anybody left over there. He didn’t even have to run a streak. He didn’t have to run by anybody because there wasn’t anybody over there. That worked perfect,” Larkey said. “The streak pass to Treyvon and the streak to Cole were big. We did some things tonight that we haven’t done all year long, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
However, Harris put the Eagles back in it with a 83-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing possession. The extra point made it 21-17 at the half.
Long put Harlan County back up by two scores with an 88-yard run out of the Wildcat. Wilson’s extra point made it 28-17 with 3:26 left in the third.
Madison Southern wouldn’t go away, and Harris capped a three-play, 80-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown run.
The teams exchanged defensive stops before Harlan County put the game out of reach with a methodical nine-play drive that covered 54-yards. Bailey served as the workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball six times. Middleton closed the possession with a 5-yard touchdown on fourth-and-one. Wilson hit the extra point to make it 35-24 with 3:35 remaining in the contest.
“Bailey is a strong runner. He pushed his way through a lot of people and gained a lot of extra yardage that we needed a time or two,” Larkey said.
After forcing a three-and-out, it took Harlan County just one play to reach the endzone on its next possession. Middleton took the handoff and raced 44-yards for the touchdown. Wilson’s kick closed the scoring with 2:09 left.
Harlan County coach Tom Larkey reached a milestone, picking up his 281st victory. With the win, Larkey moves into 10th-place on the all-time wins list in Kentucky.
“I am pretty proud. This is my 32nd year of coaching football. When you coach a long time, you can accidentally win a few along the way,” Larkey said. “I am real proud of the help and support I have had behind all of those wins too.”
Harlan County (10-2) will host Pulaski County in the Region 4 Championship next week.