An offense that produced two big plays and a defense that limited visiting Harlan to one touchdown was enough to send the Evarts Wildcats to a 12-6 win Thursday in their season opener in seventh- and eighth-grade football action.
Jayden Ward, a seventh-grade running back, scored both touchdowns for the Wildcats.
“I thought we played well the first half, but we have a lot of things to work on,” Evarts coach Ryan Sawyers said. “We couldn’t score the second half, but we’re coming along. We’ve improved a lot the past couple of weeks.”
Jacob Blas set up the first score as he recovered a fumble on the Harlan 22 with 2:53 left in the first quarter when the Dragons lined up to punt and the ball went over the head of the punter on a wet field.
Demarco Hopkins teamed with Nick Hunting for a 5-yard gain, setting up a 16-yard TD run by Ward with 1:27 to play in the period.
Hopkins put the Evarts offense back in business when he recovered a fumble on the Evarts 35 on the last play of the first quarter. Hopkins ran 20 yards on the next play, then teamed with Ward for a 51-yard touchdown play on a ball that deflected off Harlan’s Juan Bynum before being pulled in by Ward. Hopkins was stopped for the second straight time on a two-point conversion try, but the Wildcats led 12-0 with 5:07 left in the second quarter.
Conner Scearse, the Harlan quarterback had a couple of long runs late in the second quarter, but the Evarts defense held twice. Triston Cochran helped stop one drive with a tackle for a loss.
The Harlan offense appeared rejuvenated after the halftime break and put together its best drive in the third quarter. Clem and Scearse each had big gains before Scearse went in from the 2 with 2:36 left in the period.
“I told them at halftime that I wanted to see what kind of heart they had and what kind of dedication they had to their teammates and themselves and these fans out here screaming for them,” Harlan coach Chris Thompson said. “They came out the second half and decided they wanted to play a little more aggressive football. If we can continue to play like tonight, I think things will turn around for us. I told our guys I was extremely proud of them. If you turn around a couple of plays, we’d be out in the middle of the field celebrating.”
A Bynum interception gave the ball back to Harlan, but the Dragons returned the favor early in the fourth quarter with a fumble that was recovered by J.J. Caudill.
Scearse and Clem had nice runs as the Dragons drove to midfield late in the game before the Evarts defense held. Ward had two tackles for losses and Scearse threw two incomplete passes to end the threat.
“(Ward and Hopkins) are playmakers on offense, but I have to give credit to our line, too,” Sawyers said. “Our defense has improved the past couple of weeks. We stuffed them in the first half. We gave up some runs the second half, but we’re getting better. I like what I’m seeing.”
Harlan travels to Williamsburg on Tuesday. Evarts plays host to Pineville on Thursday.
Harlan won 6-0 in fifth- and sixth-grade action as Donovan Montanaro scored on a 10-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Tristan West and Joseph Shepherd led the Harlan defense in tackles.
Jonah Swanner ran for two touchdowns and passed for another and the Cumberland defense posted its third straight shutout as the Redskins downed visiting New Harlan 26-0 in fifth- and sixth-grade football action Thursday.
Swanner eluded several New Harlan defenders in a 55-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the first quarter.
Kris Cornett added another touchdown in the closing seconds of the second quarter as ran 18 yards. Dionta Ellington added the two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead.
Swanner raced 70 yards for a touchdown with 5:41 to play in the third quarter.
Cornett caught a 35-yard TD pass from Swanner with 5:51 left in the game.
Cornett sealed the shutout when he picked off a New Harlan pass with 2:23 left in the game.
Cumberland (3-0) will travel to Stinnett on Thursday.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134