Green Dragons remain perfect with shutout win over Unaka

Published 2:00 pm Monday, September 5, 2022

By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

The last time Harlan started the season with a 3-0 record was in 2015.

The Dragons finished that season 9-3 under coach J.B. Donahue.

Friday, the Green Dragons got three touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Donovan Montanaro to lead the charge in a 36-0 victory at Unaka (Tenn.).

“Donovan continues to improve each week,” said Harlan coach Eric Perry. “He is a dynamic athlete that can cause people a lot of problems, and we are beginning to see this.

“I’m excited about where he is right now and where he is headed in the future.”

Senior running back Jayden Ward had two touchdown runs and added a two-point conversion for the Dragons. Dylan Middleton, a senior running back, had a pair of two-point conversions.

“We played disciplined football, and that was good to see,” said Perry. “It was a good win for us going into the bye week. Still got a long way to go, but we are making some progress.”

The game was scoreless after one quarter.

A pair of Rangers penalties allowed the Dragons to put together their first scoring drive from its own 39. Five plays later, Montanaro scored on a 6-yard touchdown keeper at the 8:38 mark. Middleton added the two-point conversion.

It didn’t take Harlan long to score again after an interception by Montanaro.

Ward had a 37-yard gain, putting the football on the Unaka 10. Three plays later, Ward scored from the 1-yard line at the 6:18 mark as the Dragons led 14-0.

The Harlan defense was too much for the Rangers on their next possession as the Green Dragons took over on their own 40.

Four consecutive runs by Darius Akal for 28 yards put the ball on 12. On the next play, Montanaro had a quarterback keeper and scored with one minute left in the first half.

Harlan took a 20-0 advantage into the break.

The Green Dragons scored on the second possession of the second half as Ward scored on a nine-yard run with 8:03 remaining in the third period. Ward’s two-point conversion put the Dragons ahead 28-0.

Harlan’s final touchdown came following an Unaka fumble.

Montanaro dodged a couple of tackles and scored on a 24-yard TD run at the 7:14 mark. Middleton added the conversion run to cap the scoring.

Unaka reached the Harlan 29 late in the third quarter, but another turnover halted the drive.

The Rangers were driving into Harlan territory in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back QB sacks by Noah Kirby and R.W. Sanford stopped the drive as the Dragons cruised to the win.

Ward rushed for 74 yards on 10 carries for Harlan. Montanaro followed with 67 yards on seven rushes. Darius Akal added 55 yards on 11 carries.

Unaka committed five turnovers in the game, including interceptions from Will Austin and Montanaro. Ward, Ryley Mefford, and Sanford each had fumble recoveries for the Dragons.

Senior quarterback Landon Ramsey was nine of 16 passing for 113 yards and added 23 yards on 10 rushes for the Rangers.

Unaka senior running back Jamol Blamo gained 34 yards on eight carries.

Sanford led the Green Dragon defense with 10 tackles. Middleton added four, while Kirby, Mefford, and Nate Montanaro each had three.

Middleton, Sanford, and Mefford each had quarterback sacks. Mefford and Ward had tackles for loss yardage.

“The defense showed a lot of improvement from the week before,” said Perry. “We played lights out on that side of the ball.

“Our front controlled the line of scrimmage. Our linebackers were playing more downhill and our secondary was playing their responsibilities.

The WHLN Harlan Players of the Game went to Donovan Montanaro (offense) and Sanford (defense).

Blamo led the Unaka defense with 10 tackles. Ramsey followed with eight. Johnny Douglas had five tackles.

Harlan has an open date this week before traveling to Middlesboro on Sept. 16.

Since 2000, the Dragons are 3-12 against the Yellow Jackets, with the last win in 2018, a 44-32 win at home on Sept. 7.

The Dragon will return home on Sept. 23 against Lexington Sayre.

Unaka (1-2) will travel to Twin Springs (Va.) on Friday.