The Dragons turned in a superb second-half defensive performance and tied the game in stunning fashion in the fourth quarter as both teams missed opportunities to claim the win in regulation. However, the Wildcats used a touchdown pass to 6-foot-7 tight end Pat Elliott to escape with a 15-7 victory in overtime.
"Last year, we down there and they gave us a good butt-kicking (35-14)," Pendleton County coach Tim Carver said. "I'm glad we got this one today."
Turnovers were a huge problem for Harlan. Quarterback Jon Lundy threw two interceptions and the team lost five fumbles, including a fluke turnover after a long gain on a pass.
The Dragons received the kickoff after halftime trailing 7-0. On third down, Lundy threw his first complete pass of the game, hitting junior receiver Will Pope near the right sideline. Pope ran 68 yards to the Pendleton 2, but as he was being tackled, the ball squirted out of his hands and bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
"I couldn't tell if it was knocked out or if it just fell out (of his hands)," Harlan coach J.B. Donahue said. "It was just one of those freaky things where it pops out and rolls out the back of the end zone."
The Dragons' defense held firm throughout the second half, limiting the Wildcats to just 69 yards of offense.
Even so, Pendleton had its chances to extend the lead. The Wildcats drove within field goal range twice in the second half, but kicker Michael McNay missed both attempts. McNay missed three field goals in the game.
Pope's fumble started a stretch that saw Harlan turn the ball over on three of its first four possessions of the second half. After the Dragons drove across midfield on the next series, Lundy made a bad pitch on the option and the Cats recovered at their own 36.
Two possessions later, Lundy's second-down pass was picked off by McNay at the Harlan 47 with 11:43 remaining in regulation. McNay ran the ball back inside the Harlan 30, but it was called back due to a holding penalty.
The Dragons' next drive, after another miss by McNay, was the most thrilling of the game. Lundy converted a pair of third downs with passes to Patrick Ball and J.D. Heck. Facing fourth-and-10, the Dragons ran a reverse halfback pass, and Teddy Thompson found Will Pope for a 40-yard score. Michael Bianchi's kick knotted the score at 7-7.
"It's something we started working on last week, and we didn't have the chance to run it," Donahue said of the play. "(Defensive) coach (Eric) Perry said,