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Canady makes first trip to HCHS as head coach

As defensive coordinator for the Harlan County Black Bears from 2008 to 2014, Ovie Canady was the architect of the Filthy Animals defense that led HCHS to regional titles in 2010 and 2012. After three years as an assistant at Perry Central, Canady will be making his first trip back to Coal Miners Memorial Stadium as a head coach on Friday as his Commodores close their district schedule against Harlan County.

Canady led the Commodores to one of the best seasons in school history last year in his first year as head coach with an 8-3 mark, but Perry Central suffered massive graduation losses and has a 1-7 record going into the HCHS game.

“We have struggled with so many kids playing new spots on defense. To complicate matters, we have had some injuries in key spots, such as quarterback, that have made us go back to the drawing board after we’d make some progress, but there are no excuses. We play the hand we are dealt each week,” said Canady. “Despite all that, our kids have played extremely hard and haven’t quit.”

Perry lost quarterback Chanse Mckenzie, who had passed for 996 yards in six games, to a knee injury. Seniors Mason Rice and Ethan Eldridge have led the Commodores’ ground attack with 479 and 301 yards rushing, respectively.

“Perry is a very dangerous team with some nice senior players,” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “They have rushed for over 250 yards three of their last four games. They could have easily beaten both Letcher and Clay. They will try and eat clock to shorten the game. I expect a war. Their record is deceiving.”

We had 550 yards of offense last week and lost, plus we only had 20 points to show for it,” Canady said. “Repeatedly we drove the ball and couldn’t finish. We had busted plays, fumbles, penalties, interceptions, you name it. Anything that could go wrong went wrong inside the 20. We must finish if we get close.”

Harlan County fell to 6-2 on the season with a 56-6 loss last week at Johnson Central. The Bears played without senior receiver Justin Brown and junior fullback Demarco Hopkins due to injuries that will keep both out of action again this week. The Bears can lock up second place in District 8 of 4A and a home playoff game with a win Friday against the Commodores, who have never defeated HCHS.

“Defensively, HC is very big, and we have to play low and play hard. We can’t make mistakes like last week,” Canady said. “We’d have them stopped last week and jump offside or miss a tackle on a crucial situation or miss a blitz call. We have to avoid those things if we want to have a shot to pull off a monumental upset.”