BAXTER – The Lincoln County football team didn’t encounter any four-legged black bears on its trip to the mountains of eastern Kentucky Friday night, but the Patriots did face off against something just as ferocious – Harlan County High’s Black Bears.
It didn’t take the two-legged Black Bears long to show their claws, ripping off 38 unanswered points in the first half and never looking back as they rolled 52-14 over Lincoln at Coal Miner’s Memorial Stadium in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Harlan (9-2) scored on five of its six first-half possessions and even returned a punt for a score to post a 38-0 halftime lead.
“They’ve proven they are a number one seed for a reason. They just took control early and set the tone for the game,” Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. “Harlan’s just got so many weapons it’s hard to focus on one. You’ve just got to play sound defense. At times we didn’t do that, and it cost us.”
The Black Bear offense rushed for 323 yards led by Jake Middleton who moved ever closer to the 2,000-yard mark for the season Friday by getting 146 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Treyvon Long ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns and Zach Chitwood had 49 yards and a touchdown.
It was Chitwood opening the 38-point scoring surge, capping off the game’s first possession with a 39-yard touchdown run.
And the scoring just kept coming.
• Placekicker Cole Wilson booted a 26-yard field goal after Harlan’s second possession stalled at the 11.
• Long scored on a 26-yard run two plays after Devin Curry’s kickoff fumble recovery.
• Long opened the second quarter with his second touchdown of the night, running the ball in from 44 yards out on a punt return. The ball bounced right into Long’s hands off a Boone Baird punt, and he ran almost untouched to the end zone.
• Middleton capped off an eight-play, 48-yard drive with a 1-yard punch up the middle.
• Long made short work of the sixth Harlan possession of the half, taking the handoff from quarterback Scotty Bailey on the first play and scooting 58 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown and a 38-0 advantage.
“We gave them favorable field position with our turnovers,”¿Settles said. “That’s the same thing we did last year (55-27 playoff loss at Harlan) in the second quarter and that proved to hurt us. When you play in a game in the playoffs, you’ve got to limit your mistakes. We didn’t do that tonight.”
Lincoln (5-6) fumbled the ball five times for the game, losing possession each time.
Lincoln senior Jonathan Hardwick said Harlan did just what was expected on the field, but felt Lincoln was just not at peak performance.
“We were as prepared as we could be. They didn’t throw anything on us, but I think we just lacked in heart in the beginning,” he said.
Hardwick, one of nine Lincoln seniors playing their final high school game, said at halftime the team resolved to play a better second half.
“We decided that we got ourselves in the hole, and the only thing to do was to play with no regrets and just give it all we could because it was some of our last, my last time playing for Lincoln County.”
Lincoln, which rushed for 50 yards the first half, managed to double that total in the second half to finish with 151 yards on the ground, and Justin Hubble, who was 4-for-12 for 78 yards, completed three second-half passes for 67 yards.
The Patriots also got into the scoring the second half. On its third possession of the half, Lincoln took over on downs at its own 33. Trevor Gaines helped shorten the field by pulling in a Hubble throw and taking it 55 yards to the Harlan 11-yard line. Three plays later, with 2:04 left in the third, Hubble scrambled around in the backfield before finally cutting left, then diving into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown.
Middleton got back the score for Harlan on the ensuing possession, converting on a 4th-and-2 situation with a 47-yard touchdown run with just eight seconds to go in the third.
Wilson evoked the running-clock rule for Harlan with 6:26 left in the game after intercepting a Hubble pass and returning the ball 49 yards to the goal line to make it 52-7.
Lincoln could not erase Harlan’s big lead, but the Patriots would score the final touchdown. Reserve back Josh Stull scampered 62 yards down the Lincoln sideline with 1:33 showing for his first varsity touchdown and the 52-14 final.
The touchdown by the 5-5 freshman elicited quite a celebration on the Patriot sideline.
“That was great,” Settles said. “Pound-for-pound Josh is a great football player. He just plays so hard. He plays to win. That’s the type of players we want to have. We’re glad to have him back for three more years.”
The Black Bears now advance to next week’s second round of playoffs where they will meet Madison Southern, a 37-36 winner over Perry County Central.
For Lincoln, the season has now reached its end.
“We’ve got to look back now at the season,”¿Settles said. “I’m real proud of our seniors and everything they’ve accomplished, I mean, being in the playoffs the last three years. There’s a lot to be proud of in our program. Our seniors have a lot to be proud of, the team has a lot to be proud of.”
Lincoln Co. 0 0 7 7 - 14
Harlan Co. 17 21 7 7 - 52
Harlan Co.: 9:08 – Zach Chitwood 39-yard run (Cole Wilson kick).
Harlan Co.: 4:13 – Wilson 26-yard FG.
Harlan Co.: 3:28 – Treyvon Long 26-yard run (Wilson kick).
Harlan Co.: 11:40 – Long 45-yard punt return (Wilson kick).
Harlan Co.: 6:43 – Jake Middleton 1-yard run (Wilson kick).
Harlan Co.: 1:12 – Long 58-yard run (Wilson kick).
Lincoln Co.: 2:04 – Justin Hubble 6-yard run (Boone Baird kick).
Harlan Co.: :08 – Middleton 47-yard run (Wilson kick).
Harlan Co.: 6:26 – Justin Napier 49-yard interception return (Wilson kick).
Lincoln Co.: 1:33 – Josh Stull 62-yard run (Baird kick).
First Downs 9 7
rushing 6 6
passing 2 1
penalty 1 0
Rushing Plays 43 36
Rushging yards gained 151 323
Pass Attempts 13 4
completions 4 1
Passing yards 78 12
Passing touchdowns 0 0
interceptions 1 0
Total Plays 56 40
total offense 229 335
Fumbles/lost 5/3 2/2
Penalties/yards 7/46 6/47
Logan Martin: 12 carries, 64 yards.
Josh Stull: 4 carries, 62 yards, TD.
Connor Patterson: 7 carries, 23 yards.
Trevor Gaines: 1 carry, 12 yards.
Marvin Robinson: 8 carries, 9 yards.
Dalton Godbey: 2 carries, 6 yards.
Justin Hubble: 9 carries, (-25) yards.
Jake Middleton: 18 carries, 146 yards, 2TDs.
Treyvon Long: 6 carries, 97 yards, 2TDs.
Zach Chitwood: 5 carries, 49 yards, TD.
Cole Wilson: 1 carry, 17 yards.
Scotty Bailey: 3 carries, 7 yards.
Fred Massey: 3 carries, 7 yards.
Passing: Justin Hubble –¿4-12-1, 78 yards; Josh Stull – 0-1-0; Dalton Godbey – 0-0-0.
Receiving: Trevor Gaines – 2-63; Connor Patterson – 1-11; Marvin Robinson – 1-4.
Passing: Scotty Bailey – 1-4-0, 12 yards; Jarett Ford – 0-0-0.
Receiving: Cole Wilson – 1-12.