2017-09-06 / Sports

LCC will try to regroup against tough opponent

By DEREK BARTO


Letcher Central’s Hunter Campbell rushed the ball upfield around the Hazard defense thanks to some blocking help from teammate Kealan Lucas (88) and Kaleb Mullins (34). (Photo by Chris Anderson) Letcher Central’s Hunter Campbell rushed the ball upfield around the Hazard defense thanks to some blocking help from teammate Kealan Lucas (88) and Kaleb Mullins (34). (Photo by Chris Anderson) Letcher County Central remains winless on the season after a 42-12 defeat to the Hazard Bulldogs and the Cougars’ schedule doesn’t get any easier this week when they welcome Union High School to Cougar field Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Union, which opened in 2011 with an enrollment of more than 600 students after the consolidation of the Appalachia and Big Stone Gap high schools, is one of the strongest teams in all of southwest Virginia with 20 seniors and 13 starters returning from last year’s squad, which compiled a won-loss record of 11-2 while winning two games in Virginia’s state tournament. Two Virginia all-state players — senior tight end James Mitchell, a Rivals.com four-star Division 1 prospect who stands six-foot-four and weighs 210 pounds, and junior Jeb Stidham, a six-foot-three, 315-pound lineman — lead the Bears.

The Bristol Herald Courier says nearly every major college program in the United States was recruiting Mitchell until mid-July, when he cut his options to Duke, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

Letcher Central’s game at Hazard last Friday was a mirror image of its previous loss where LCC jumped out to an early lead but penalties and turnovers led to their demise.

Hunter Campbell returned the opening kickoff 31 yards to give Letcher Central good field position to start the game. Nick Sergent connected with Kealan Lucas for 16 yards on a seam route to begin the drive. On third and five, Sergent eluded two pass rushers and scrambled for just enough for the first down but the play was called back for a holding penalty. LCC couldn’t convert on the next play and Jon Sergent’s punt was downed at the Hazard 17-yard line.

Hazard quarterback Bailey Blair threw a wide receiver screen to Bryson Parks for a 37-yard gain to get the ball just past midfield. The Cougar defense stiffened up after that and stuffed three consecutive running plays to force a punt.

On third and eight, Sergent threw a perfect bomb of a pass to a streaking Blake Brashears who caught it 45 yards down field and then out ran a Hazard defender for a 90-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good but LCC jumped to a quick 6-0 lead with 7:33 to go in the first quarter.

Hazard ran a reverse to Braxton Whitaker for a 17-yard gain. On third and seven, running back Cory Smith gained eight tough yards for a first down. Then facing third and 15, Blair was about to get sacked and threw the ball left handed (opposite hand) to Skylar Pelfrey for a 13-yard gain. Hazard converted the fourth down play and scored three plays later on an eight-yard run by Smith. The extra point was blocked to keep the score tied at 6 late in the first quarter.

LCC started at its own eightyard line after a penalty on the kickoff return. The Cougars went three and out to give the ball back to Hazard at the LCC 37-yard line after the punt.

Smith had an 18-yard gain on a sweep around the right side of the line. Hunter Campbell, who appeared to force a fumble that was recovered by Jon Sergent, blew up the next play, a wide receiver screen. After a lengthy conversation between the referees, the call was reversed to an incomplete pass. On the next play Smith ran up the middle for 14-yards. LCC starting linebacker/running back Nathan Short was injured during the run and did not return the remainder of the game. On the first play of the second quarter, Smith rumbled up the middle for a three-yard touchdown and the extra point gave Hazard a 13-6 lead.

On the ensuing drive, Nick Sergent made two defenders miss on a juke move to scramble for a 10-yard gain and get a first down on third and seven. The offense couldn’t move any farther and Jon Sergent had a nice 41-yard punt to pin the Bulldogs deep in their own territory.

Blair hit Pelfrey for a 30-yard gain. Then Blair threw a go route to Parks for a 37-yard touchdown. Hazard ran a fake out of its kick formation for a two-point conversion to make the score 21-6 with 7:32 left in the second quarter.

The next series saw the Cougars fumble on the first play, and the ball was recovered by Hazard. On the next play, LCC’s Blake Brashears made an incredible interception in the end zone, where he simply outfought Parks for the ball. LCC then managed two first downs before turning the ball over on downs near midfield.

Hazard’s Blair then scrambled for a 23-yard gain on third and 12 before Smith scored on a 21-yard run to give Hazard a 28-6 lead after the extra point sailed through the uprights.

With LCC now on offense, Sergent completed a 17-yard pass to Lucas on a deep out, but Andy Baker intercepted the next pass with less than a minute left in the first half. Parks outraced the Letcher Central defense for a 49-

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