Williamsburg’s two-year domination of Class A football in eastern Kentucky came to an end Saturday in the mud of Green Dragon Field in Harlan.
Harlan ruled the line of scrimmage in building a 14-0 halftime lead on the way to a 28-19 victory to improve to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in District 7, likely setting up a showdown at Pineville in two weeks for the district title.
The win against the two-time defending regional champs and state runner-up was likely the biggest of the decade for Harlan and perhaps this century as it put the Dragons in line for their first district title since 1999.
Nick Jarvis, Harlan’s senior fullback, ran for 106 of his 145 yards in the first half as the Dragons’ offensive line won the battle up front. Junior quarterback Tanner Parks also had a big game with 147 yards passing, coming up with several timely throws when the Harlan coaching staff appeared to find the Jackets’ secondary off guard.
The Harlan defense was also at its best, limiting Williamsburg to only 35 yards rushing on 20 carries while making life difficult most of the night for quarterback Alec Poore, who did come back with several big throws in the second half to help the Jackets get as close as eight points in the second half.
Jarvis and the Harlan offensive line set the tone for the game on the opening drive as he had six carries for 58 yards in Harlan’s 12-play march that ended with Paul Stapleton’s 2-yard touchdown run. Pedro Roman hit the extra point as the Dragons led 7-0 with 4:57 to play in the first quarter.
Harlan drove into Williamsburg territory on its second possession before the Williamsburg defense held.
The Dragons got the ball back one play later when senior linebacker Matthew Bailey picked off a pass on the Harlan 10 and returned it to the 1. Kendal Brock went in the next play, and Roman followed with the kick for a 14-0 lead as time expired in the opening period.
Harlan extended its advantage to 21-0 early in the third quarter as Parks found freshman receiver Caleb Adkins behind the defense for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Roman added the extra point.
After a bad first half, Poore began to find receivers in the second half and brought the Jackets back with two scoring drives in the third quarter.
Poore found Hagan Hawn for a 41-yard pass play that set up a 2-yard TD run by the quarterback. J.C. Bowling hit the extra point.
A Hunter Browning interception put the Jackets’ offense back in business as Poore teamed with Alex Patterson for a 23-yard touchdown on the next play. Bowling’s kick was no good as Williamsburg pulled within eight with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
The Jackets appeared to have Harlan stopped again late in the period but a face mask penalty kept the drive alive. Parks found Noah Busroe for a 32-yard pass to ignite a 12-play drive that ended when Brock went in from the 9 on a fourth-and-two play with 7:28 left. Roman’s extra point make the score 28-13.
Williamsburg was facing a fourth-and-19 play when Poore hooked up with Darrell White for a 27-yard pass to keep the drive alive. Hawn caught a 7-yard touchdown pass with five minutes left. The Jackets went for two, and Adkins broke up a pass that kept the Harlan lead at nine.
A 29-yard pass from Parks to Busroe on third-and-11 kept Harlan’s next drive alive as the Dragons drove to the Williamsburg 2 before the Jackets made a stop on fourth down.
Williamsburg had only 44 seconds to reach the end zone twice, and Adkins picked off a pass with 14 seconds left to seal the victory.
Harlan will travel to Lynn Camp on Friday. Williamsburg (1-5, 0-1) will play host to Pineville on Friday.