LOG MOUNTAIN — Playing on the new turf field at Bell County High School, the New Harlan Patriots showed off their big-play ability on both offense and defense in rolling to a 40-16 win Thursday in middle school football action.
After being stopped on their first two possessions, the Patriots exploded, scoring four touchdowns on five plays to build a 32-0 lead on their way to their eighth-straight victory.
“Our kids were excited about getting another chance to play Bell. We feel we didn’t give them our best shot the first game (a 26-14 win),” New Harlan coach Brett Johnson said. “I think that earlier game got us going though. These guys are a fantastic group to coach. They give you all they’ve got. I couldn’t be any prouder of them.”
Josh Turner set up the first touchdown when he forced a fumble with a hard hit, then came up with the loose ball on the Bell County 3. Turner scored on the next play, and Ben Landis followed with a 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
The New Harlan defense came through again on the Bobcats’ next possession as Jacob Bailey scooped up a fumble on the Bell 31 and returned it for a touchdown. Turner’s two-point conversion pushed the lead to 16-0 with 44.2 seconds left in the opening period.
A Jordan Steele sack put the New Harlan offense back on the field, and Matt Brown needed only one touch to reach the end zone as he broke free on the way to a 45-yard TD run. Hunter Blevins’ two-point conversion pushed the lead to 24-0 with 6:45 left in the second quarter.
A sack by Kobe Burkhart thwarted the next Bell drive, and New Harlan needed only one play to score once again. Jay Harris found Elisha Smallwood for a 59-yard touchdown strike. Harris went in for the two-point conversion and a 32-0 lead with 4:21 to play in the half.
Bell’s offense finally came to life at that point as Will Dean race 46 yards for a touchdown with 2:35 left in the half. Hunter Bailey added the two-point conversion.
A Cameron Barnett interception ended New Harlan’s final drive of the first half.
New Harlan drove into Bell territory to open the second half before a fumble ended the threat. The Patriots got the ball back a few plays later when Smallwood recovered a fumble.
Brown followed a Burkhart block into the end zone for a touchdown with 4:19 to play. Harris went in for the conversion.
Bell added a late score on a 2-yard run by Ryan Stepp. Seth Mills went in for the two-point conversion with 17.2 seconds to play. A Stepp pass to Clayton Goodie covering 20 yards helped set up the score.
New Harlan (8-1) will have a couple of weeks off before beginning state playoff action.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134