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Dragons get the first shot at upsetting W-burg

Harlan coach Eric Perry isn’t kidding himself or his team about their chances Friday at Williamsburg in the opening round of the Class A playoffs.

“We know it’s a tall task, but we’ll show up and see what happens,” Perry said. “Their athleticism is at another level. They are very well coached. You will have to beat them to get to Kroger Field. We don’t match up great with them, but last time we were able to move the ball some. We have to be like that and eat clock.”

In a 47-6 loss to Williamsburg in the regular season, the 1-9 Green Dragons were able to move the ball on the ground with 134 yards rushing compared to 127 for the Jackets. The Dragons, who were only able to finish one drive with a touchdown in the previous meeting, will have to take advantage of their opportunities this time to stay close, because stopping Williamsburg quarterback Dalton Ponder was all but impossible. Ponder completed 13 of 15 passes against the Dragons for 267 yards and four touchdowns.

The Dragons’ offensive line has been the team’s strength in the second half of the season with four seniors (Will Howard, Wil McCarthy, Jacob Surber and Jacob Howard) opening holes for junior quarterback/running back Ethan Clem, who rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns in a hard-fought 28-14 loss to visiting Leslie County last week. The Dragons had 21 of the 23 players on the roster able to play in last week’s game, a big improvement in depth from a 42-0 loss the previous week against Pineville.

“We had more kids in practice this week and were able to do a lot more in practice. That means a lot during practice,” Perry said. “I’m real proud of our guys, especially those seniors.”

The Dragons also benefited from having junior quarterback Connor Scearse back from an injury as he alternated with Clem. Junior running back/receiver Juan Bynum was also able to play and gave the Dragons a lift with a 38-yard run on fourth down.

Williamsburg (8-2) won its fourth straight district title by sweeping past all three district opponents. The Jackets were led by Ponder, who passed for 3,084 yards and 35 touchdowns. Caleb Rose leads the Jackets in receptions with 51, followed by Gavon Thomas with 45 and Devonte Powell with 29.

Clem has carried the Harlan offense with 740 yards rushing and eight of 11 touchdowns. Jayden Ward has 313 yards rushing and Bynum has added 135.

Jeremiah Mills has led the Harlan defense with 51 tackles. Jon Eldridge has 40 tackles, followed by Shane Lindsey with 36, Ward with 32 and Britt Lawson with 31.