A decades-old sports debate will be revived Friday when Williamsburg travels to Harlan to face the Green Dragons in the district opener for both teams.
Is it better, like Harlan this season, to build confidence by winning against inferior competition, or does it make you better to lose to good competition, like Williamsburg has faced the first half of the season?
Harlan has built a 5-1 record going into the game by steamrolling past South Floyd 60-26, Thomas Walker Va., 41-28, Bracken County 28-21, Jackson County 57-8 and Rye Cove, Va., 28-21. Their only loss was to previously winless Middlesboro 28-21 two weeks ago. Those six opponents have a combined record of 6-21.
The Dragons have already matched last year’s win total, when they finished 5-6.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Harlan coach J.B. Donahue said. “We’ve still got a ways to go. We’ve gotten better defensively.”
Williamsburg is off to a 1-4 start after losing most of the key players from back-to-back state runner-up finishes to graduation. The Jackets opened the season with losses to Lexington Christian (51-0), Somerset (41-20), Leslie County (27-19) and Paintsville (39-15). Williamsburg defeated Ludlow 23-14 two weeks ago before an open date last Friday.
“I still think it’s the best team we’ve seen so far,” Donahue said. “I know what their record is, but they still have a lot of confidence after playing in the state championship game the last two years. “They are aggressive on defense, and they play fast. They have a very good football program.”
The Jackets have remained primarily a passing team with Alec Poore completing 51 of 120 passes through five games for 685 yards, with four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Alex Patterson leads in receptions with 21 for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Hagen Hawn and Darrell White each have 11 catches with 161 yards for White and 146 for Hawn.
Austin Huskey is first on the team in rushing with 190 yards, followed closely by Poore with 170 yards.
“They still try to run the football, and they still throw it exceptionally well. They are a two-headed monster on offense you have to defend,” Donahue said.
Huskey, a four-year starter at linebacker, is also first on the team in tackles with 47. Harlan fans may remember Huskey from a devastating hit he had against former Harlan quarterback Ty Saragas three years ago.
Harlan will present some problems for the Williamsburg defense with a balanced ground attack led by senior Nick Jarvis with 560 yards rushing and sophomore Kendal Brock with 525.
“The key for us offensively is to hold on to the football,” Donahue said. “We also can’t let them control the football.”
Junior lineman Thomas Morgan is the Dragons’ top defender with 41 tackles. Freshman safety Kilian Ledford is second with 36 tackles.
With Pineville also playing very well this season at 4-2, District 7 looks like it’s at least a three-team race, plus Lynn Camp, at 4-3, also appears to be improved.
“I think any of the teams can win this district,” Donahue said. “Williamsburg, based on recent history, has to be considered the favorite at the point, and Pineville has one of its best teams in a while. It’s wide open.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134