For third straight game in a six-game losing streak to start the season, the Harlan Green Dragons still had a chance until the closing seconds in a 14-6 loss Thursday to visiting Middlesboro in seventh- and eighth-grade football action.
After being unable to move the ball in the first half as Middlesboro built an 8-0 lead, the Dragons found success in the second half as quarterback Conner Scearse had several big runs and passes to help Harlan rally. Scearse completed passes to Jeremiah Mills and Montana Harris in the opening drive of the third quarter. Robbie Neal bulled his way to the Middlesboro 3 before the drive stalled after a procedure penalty.
Caleb Bogonko broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run after taking a pitch from Eric Helton to extend the Jackets’ lead to 14-0.
Cameron Fields set up the Harlan offense when he recovered a fumble punt near midfield with 5:50 left in the game. Ethan Clem picked up a first down, then Scearse broke free down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown run. Juan Bynum was stopped on the two-point conversion attempt.
Harlan got the ball back in the final two minutes with a chance to tie. Scearse completed passes to Harris and Neal as the Dragons drove to the Middlesboro 32 before Scearse was sacked to end the game.
Middlesboro (4-3) struck first with a safety when the ball was snapped over the head of punter Brayden Shanks with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Riley Gent scored on a 32-yard run after a free kick from the Dragons following the safety, pushing the lead to 8-0 on the final play of the opening period. Britt Lawson pressured Helton as the pass fell incomplete on the two-point conversion attempt.
Middlesboro drove into Harlan territory late in the first half on two long runs by Gent before Shanks recovered a punt to end the threat.
Harlan will play host to Stinnett on Tuesday.
Harlan improved to 6-0 in fifth- and sixth-grade football action, posting its fourth shutout of the season in a 34-0 win over Lynn Camp.
The Dragons recovered three onside kicks in building a 34-0 lead in the first half, starting a running clock in the process.
Donovan Montanaro ran for 138 yards, scoring three touchdowns, to lead the Dragons. Tristan West added 84 yards with one touchdown and one two-point conversion. Tayquan Vick contributed 28 yards and one touchdown. Landon Phillips had 22 yards rushing and a two-point conversion.
Montanaro led the Harlan defense with five tackles. West added four.
The Dragons have clinched the top seed in the Mountain Middle School Athletic Conference playoffs and will host a playoff game on Sept. 27.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134