Even though his Harlan Green Dragons were able to hold on for a 28-21 win, you know coach J.B. Donahue had to be impressed with the ball-control attack that Bracken County brought to southeastern Kentucky last season.
In his 24 years at the helm of the Harlan program, Donahue has usually strived for a power ground game like the visiting Polar Bears displayed last year when they ran 62 offensive plays, compared to only 24 for the Dragons. Harlan was able to win with big plays, including three touchdowns covering 50 yards of more. The two teams meet again Saturday in a 2 p.m. game at Bracken County.
“They are a very talented team with a lot of speed,” Donahue said. “They don’t have the fullback they had last year, but they have three kids with good speed. They throw it very well, and they are averaging about 40 points per game. It will be a challenge for us defensively. I think their linemen are better than last year.”
Harlan went on to post an 9-3 mark last season, winning its first district title since 1999 in the process. With most of their key players back, Harlan is off to another good start with blowout wins over South Floyd and Thomas Walker, Va., to open the season.
“We’re hoping it will be a fairly competitive game. Harlan is ranked pretty high in the state right now and return a lot of quality kids, including (junior tailback Kendal) Brock. I’m hoping we can have a good game at home,” said Bracken County coach Mike Sizemore, a Clay County native.
Bracken County (1-1) has split its first two games, downing Switzerland County, Ind. 54-26 before suffering a 31-27 loss last week to Gallatin County.
“I think we’re better than we were this time last year,” Sizemore said. “We’re coming off a hard-fought game against Gallatin County, where we ran the ball pretty well. We just need to get a little more physical up front, but we like where we’re at.”
The Polar Bears will again feature a balanced ground attack, led by senior Nick Parker, who gained 60 yards on 21 carries in last year’s game at Harlan. Tristen Bishop, a senior who played quarterback last season, will share time at wingback with Logan Teegarden, Tad Fisher and Griffin Appleman. Trey Deaton, a junior, has taken over at quarterback.
Harlan, as usual, features a solid ground attack led by Brock, a junior, and senior fullback Joey Swanner, along with sophomore quarterback Kilian Ledford.
“We are similar teams with the Wing T. We have to be able to stop the run and limit the big plays from Ledford on scrambles,” Sizemore said. “It’s fundamental stuff you want to do every week, but it’s even bigger against a team like Harlan that will present a lot of problems.”
The unusual kickoff time Saturday has led Donahue to take a slightly different approach to preparing for the game.
“I’ve told the kids we should treat it like a business trip and try to get something accomplished,” he said. “We’re staying up there Friday night, then going on in Saturday morning.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134