Even though they were facing an outmanned opponent that had little or no chance of beating them, the Harlan Green Dragons had to know they weren’t allowed to win ugly or have an off night, not on a night that meant this much to their head coach.
Harlan blasted visiting Jenkins 60-6 on Thursday in the opening round of the Class A playoffs, a fitting tribute for Mark Thompson, the former standout Harlan lineman who died a week earlier and was honored with his name and number on Green Dragon Field.
Thompson, a 1981 Harlan graduate, was a teammate of Harlan coaches J.B. Donahue and John Luttrell during the start of perhaps the best run in school history, beginning with the school’s first district championship in 1979 when Thompson was a junior and both Donahue and Luttrell were sophomores.
“He’s too great a guy for us to not play well,” Donahue said. “That’s the best friend I’ve ever had in this world. He was a special guy, and I’m glad we were able to get a big win tonight in honor of him.”
Thompson was remembered at halftime with a short ceremony on the field as a No. 50 jersey (Thompson’s number) was presented to his brother, Chris Thompson, the current coach of the middle school team at Harlan.
“Mark led us many nights out here. He willed us to win many nights,” an emotional Donahue added after the game.
Harlan (9-2), the champions of District 7, dominated from the start against the 1-10 Cavaliers, who were held to two first downs through the first three quarters and had negative nine yards rushing for the night. The Dragons raced to a 35-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, even though they ran only five offensive plays in the period while holding Jenkins to negative 30 yards rushing.
“I told the kids before the game that we needed to take care of business early and end any discussion of it,” Donahue said. “They did that, and we were able to play a lot of people. Everybody got on the field tonight, which makes me happy.”
A partially blocked punt set the Dragons up on the Jenkins 21 less than two minutes into the game. Nick Jarvis ran 15 yards on the first play and Kendal Brock went 6 on the next for the first touchdown. The first of five Kilian Ledford extra points in the period put the Dragons up 7-0 with 9:39 to play in the opening quarter.
Harlan scored again 65 seconds later when linebacker Holden Williams recovered a fumble in the end zone as the Cavaliers lined up to punt.
Paul Stapleton ran 43 yards for a touchdown the next time Harlan touched the ball as the lead grew to 21-0 with 6:34 left in the period.
Junior receiver Noah Busroe took a punt back 37 yards for a score with 3:54 to play in the quarter to make the score 28-0.
A 37-yard pass completion from Darian Slone to Brady Addington gave the Cavaliers their initial first down, but Harlan got the ball back after three straight incomplete passes. Jarvis went 16 yards and Brock rumbled 32 yards in the two-play drive as Harlan built a 35-0 lead.
Junior quarterback Tanner Parks went in from the 6 with 5:12 left in the first half to start a running clock.
Busroe showed off his speed again on special teams when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half for an 83-yard touchdown. Ledford’s kick pushed Harlan’s advantage to 48-0.
Jarvis went in from the 5 with 2:50 left in the third quarter to a 54-0 lead.
Slone started Jenkins’ only scoring drive with a 17-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, then capped the seven-play march with a 6-yard TD run with 5:20 left in the game. John Holyfield was stopped short on the two-point conversion run.
Freshman fullback Troy Barton provided the final highlight of the night when he ran over several Jenkins defenders while tight-roping the sideline in a 57-yard touchdown run with 1:50 to play
Harlan will play the winner of the Hazard-Pineville game on Friday in the Region 4 semifinals.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134