It’s much too early to tell if the Harlan County Black Bears are going to continue the improvement they showed last season in earning a home playoff game with three straight district victories late in the season.
One thing is clear, however, from watching the black-white scrimmage on Friday to close spring practice — the Black Bears should have no shortage of playmakers.
Harlan County made several big plays on offense as the black team rolled to a 35-7 victory. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Branson ran for three touchdowns and passed for another to lead the black team.
Branson ran for a touchdown in the first quarter before a storm interrupted play. Junior running back Rhett Alred had several big gains in the opening scoring drive. Marcus Kelly, who backed up his brother, Jordan, last year, hit the first of six extra points.
Colby Cochran, a freshman who started at quarterback for the white team, was intercepted by Branson in the second quarter to set up the set scoring drive.
Sophomore Quintin Mickens, the Bears’ leading tackler last year at safety, ran for a first down before Branson teamed with Tyrese Simmons for a 22-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the half.
Cochran scored on a 9-yard run in the third quarter to cut the deficit in half.
Mickens picked up two firsts downs as the black team answered in a drive capped by Branson’s 4-yard run with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
Keenon Napier picked up a pair of first downs for the white team late in the third quarter before the drive stalled when Chase Coker knocked down a pass.
Simmons and Mickens each ran for first downs before Coker broke free for a 17-yard touchdown run with 8:48 left in the scrimmage as the lead grew to 28-7.
Napier went back to work with two more first downs before another white drive ended when tackle Ethan Baird recovered a fumble.
Napier had a sack to back up the white offense, but Branson ran for 25 yards for a first down, then scored on a 3-yard run.
Cochran teamed with Colby King on two passes for first downs before time expired.
“I thought spring practice was a huge success,” said coach Eddie Creech. “We had 52 dressed to play in spring game, which was only next year’s sophomores, juniors and seniors. We didn’t have our baseball players and a couple of key guys who are still injured. We got all 10 practices in, and I thought our kids worked hard and it was a good start to our 2016 season.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134