Week 1 of the high school football postseason is here.
For the second season in a row, the Lincoln County football team will face off against Harlan County in the state playoffs.
The District 8 champion Black Bears, who knocked the Patriots out in the second round of playoffs last year, will host Lincoln Friday night at Coal Miners’ Memorial Stadium in Baxter at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the Class 5A state championships.
The Patriots qualified for the playoffs by finishing fourth in District 7 with a record of 2-3.
Harlan, which finished 8-2 overall and 3-0 in its district, is coming off a 40-34 win over Bell County. The Black Bears are led by former Rockcastle County coach Tom Larkey.
Harlan scored 40 points in last week’s win over Bell, right at the team’s average of 39.4 points per game. The Black Bears have been stingy when it comes to points allowed, giving up just 18.8 points per game.
The Black Bears march ahead full steam into the playoffs, winning eight of their last nine games, including their final five games. The only blemishes on Harlan’s record this season were a 35-25 loss to Morristown-Hamblen West (Tenn.) on opening week and a 12-6 loss to Knox Central on Sept. 21.
Harlan relies on the running attack offensively, with 3,789 of their 4,226 total yards coming on the ground. Senior running back Jake Middleton has eaten up defenses this season, getting 1,757 yards and 24 touchdowns on 219 carries.
Carson Whitehead leads the Black Bear defense with 169 tackles. Middleton and Cole Wilson also making their presence known to opposing offenses with 86 tackles and 79 tackles, respectively,
The Patriots are 5-5 overall heading into the playoffs and are coming off an open week.
After starting out 3-1 against its early-season schedule of Casey County (3-7), Danville (7-3), Washington County (2-8) and Garrard County (6-4), Lincoln fell on hard times, dropping three straight games, including back-to-back district losses – Pulaski County (35-17) and Madison Southern (47-19). The Patriots rebounded in week 7 to rout South Laurel 63-20 then clinched a playoff berth the following week with a 24-14 win at Southwestern.
Lincoln closed the regular season with a loss as North Laurel claimed third place in the district with a 35-14 win.
Offensively, the Patriots have scored 270 points and gained almost 2,000 yards rushing (1,992) with a high game of 348 against South Laurel.
Logan Martin and Marvin Robinson lead Lincoln on the ground, combining for over 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns on 228 carries. Martin, a senior, is the leading rusher with 661 yards and 11 touchdowns on 135 carries and Robinson, a junior, has 504 yards and six touchdowns on 93 carries.
Quarterback Justin Hubble is 51-for-106 for 593 yards with five interceptions. He has thrown for five touchdowns. Austin Cress is Lincoln’s top receiver with 11 receptions for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Trevor Gaines has 21 receptions for 206 yards.
Defensively, Lincoln has given up 280 points per game and allowed 1,971 rushing yards and 1,137 passing yards.