Football notebook: Harlan, HC fall in Friday finales

Published 5:30 pm Monday, October 30, 2023

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Staff Report

Leach, Mitchell team for 5 TDs as South Laurel blanks Harlan

Only a few high school football teams in Kentucky have a chance to end their season with a victory unless they are one of the six state champions. The South Laurel Cardinals did just that Friday, though, in a 34-0 shellacking of visiting Harlan in a game that was called off at halftime.

South Laurel missed out on a trip to the playoffs with a 0-4 district mark, but the Cardinals won five of six non-district games to end the season at 5-5 and closed with a dominating effort against a Harlan squad that was short-handed with standout junior running back Darius Akal out of action.

The Harlan offense clearly missed Akal as the Dragons gained one-yard rushing on 15 carries while being limited to 17 yards through the air.

South Laurel rolled up 112 yards on the ground and senior quarterback Jimmy Mitchell completed nine of 13 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tailback Ethan Leach ran for 81 yards and scored three touchdowns.

South Laurel’s first drive ended with a fumble on the Harlan 8, but the Dragons were unable to pick up a first down in the opening quarter.

Hunter Bundy returned the Dragons’ first punt of the night to the South 4, then Leach scored on the next play for a 6-0 lead with 4:13 to play in the first quarter.

Leach scored on a 43-yard run on the first play of the second quarter for a 12-0 lead.

The Cardinals got the ball back after another Harlan three-and-out and needed only way to play to reach the end zone as Mitchell found Gage Larkey for a 42-yard TD pass. Mitchell teamed with Noah Smith for a 20-0 lead with 8:57 left in the half.

Harlan picked up its only two first downs of the night on the ensuing drive as Baylor Varner teamed with tight end Hunter Clem on consecutive passes. After the Dragons’ drive stalled, the Cardinals marched 60 yards in seven plays as Leach went in from the 5 with 3:29 to play. Mitchell connected with Garrison Brown for the two-point conversion.

The Dragons went for it on a fourth-and-one at their own 22 but were stopped for no gain. Hunter Bundy caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell two plays later.

Three Harlan players (Donovan Montanaro, Tayquan Vick and Sedrick Washington) were ejected in the first half and will have to sit out next week’s playoff game.

Harlan (2-8) is scheduled to play at Pikeville on Friday in the first round of the Class A playoffs. The Panthers knocked off Harlan in last year’s first round before winning a state championship.

Thomas rumbles for 4 touchdowns as Bobcats roll past HC

With well over 2,000 yards rushing to his credit, Bell County senior tailback Daniel Thomas has been a problem for every opposing defense the Bobcats have faced this season.

The Harlan County Black Bears were no different Friday as Thomas ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns in the Bobcats’ 39-0 victory on Senior Night at Log Mountain.

Thomas capped a seven-play, 54-yard drive to open the game with a 1-yard touchdown run. Blake Burnett threw to Hayden Dameron for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.

The Bobcats needed only one play to score on their next drive as Thomas raced 79 yards and Burnett went in for two points and a 16-0 lead.

Bell was stopped on its next drive as junior defensive back Luke Kelly made the tackle on fourth down.

A Burnett interception set up a 63-yard touchdown run by Thomas with 6:12 left in the third quarter. Burnett threw to Elijah Hampton for the two-point conversion and a 24-0 lead.

Burnett threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Everage with 27.6 seconds remaining in the half, then Kaleb Miller added the two-point conversion.

Thomas went 29 yards for the Bobcats’ final touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Jacob Brashears hit the extra point.

The 9-1 Bobcats play host to Magoffin County on Friday in the first round of the 3A playoffs. The 1-9 Bears travel to Madison Southern in the 5A playoffs.