HARLAN — For the George Rogers Clark Cardinals, the story was all too familiar.
Clark held the high-powered Harlan County offense scoreless for 22 minutes Friday and maintained a 7-0 lead through much of the first half before the Bears grabbed the momentum with a scoring drive that gave them an 8-7 lead at the break.
“It was 16-14 and we had the ball driving, two inches from a first down. It was one of those what if games, but I'm proud of the kids’ effort,” Clark coach Steven Collins said.
Clark struggled to move the ball against the physical Harlan County defense but stayed close with a pair of big plays — a 76-yard run by C.D. Spight on the Cards’ first offensive play and a 72-yard run by Darian Skinner in the third quarter.
Middleton carried the offense for Harlan County (4-2), one of the state's top-ranked 5A teams, a two-time champion of District 8. Middleton rushed for 192 yards on 25 carries, going over 1,000 yards for the season, and scored three touchdowns.
“It was kind of chess match going back and forth,” Collins said. “It was a great effort from these kids. I love them to death. They keep fighting and fighting and fighting. Good things are going to happen for them.”
Skinner rushed for 151 yards on 15 carries and Spight added 75 yards on nine carries to lead the Cardinals, who fell to 0-6.
Clark trailed by two and had the ball on the Harlan County 37 with four minutes left when Skinner was stopped for no gain on fourth and one.
Middleton scored seven plays later to ice the win for the Bears and send the Cards to another hard-luck loss. Collins said the game was another confidence builder for his team but added it was time to start winning.
“We’ve told them we’ve been building enough,” he said. “We’ve had six games. The building time is over.”
G. Rogers Clark 07 00 07 00 — 14
Harlan County 00 08 08 07 — 23
GRC — Spight 76 run (Dailey kick)
HC — Middleton 50 run (Middleton run)
HC — Middleton 34 run (Middleton run)
GRC — Skinner 72 run (Dailey kick)
HC — Middleton 2 run (Wilson kick)