Letcher Central must regroup after falling 49-7 to rival Harlan County in the Cougars’ first district game of the year. The loss gives LCC it first losing record of the year at 3-4.
Harlan County started the game off with excellent field position after a 44-yard kickoff return by Bobby Huff to the LCC 48-yard line. Facing fourth and two, the Black Bears decided to go for it and tailback Ricky Skidmore used extra effort to get just enough yardage for the first down. Quarterback Scotty Bailey ran a play action fake to find receiver Cole Wilson on a drag route for a 17-yard gain. Two plays later Bailey found Nick Caudill alone in the back of the end zone for a Harlan County had set the tone with a 6-0 lead.
Letcher Central started at its own 29-yard line. After yielding back-to-back sacks the Cougars were forced to punt. On the ensuing Harlan County drive a Bailey 41-yard touchdown was brought back because of a holding penalty. Three plays later Bailey was still able to score on a two-yard quarterback sneak. Fred Massey scored on a two-point conversion to increase the Black Bears’ lead to 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
After a three-and-out gave the ball back to Harlan County, Keith Boggs shot through the line to tackle Massey for a six-yard loss. On the next play, Kyler Lucas intercepted Bailey’s pass and returned the ball to midfield.
Facing a third down and eight, LCC quarterback Zane Blair’s pass was just out of the reach of Houston Watts, and early in the second quarter the Cougar offense had still not recorded a first down.
Next, Harlan County tailback Fred Massey burst a 65-yard run up the middle for a touchdown. The extra point was missed to give the Black Bears a 20-0 lead with 9:46 left to play in the second quarter.
LCC started the next possession at its own 35-yard line after the kickoff went out of bounds. Out of the I-formation Hunter Hall got his first carry of the game and went 11 yards for a first down. On third and, Blair scrambled away from pressure and threw a 53-yard bomb to Kyler Lucas who was tackled at the Black Bear two-yard line. Facing third and goal from the one yard line, Blair fumbled on a quarterback sneak just as he was trying to stretch across the goal line. Harlan County recovered the fumble to thwart the scoring threat.
The Cougar defense then stiff- ened to force the first Harlan County punt of the game. Blair threw a perfect pass on a corner route to Houston Watts for a 27- yard gain down to the Black Bear 21-yard line. But the LCC offense could get no further and turned the ball over on downs.
On third and long from deep in their own territory, Black Bears quarterback Scotty Bailey scrambled for 42 yards and a first down at midfield. Cole Wilson ran a sweep around the left side of the line for a 40-yard pickup. 2 plays later Bailey scored from three yards out on a quarterback draw. Harlan County again did not get its two-point conversion but still built their lead to 26-0 just before halftime.
Letcher Central junior Aaron Tackett found a seam just inside the left sideline for an excellent 43-yard kickoff return. Blair threw backto back wide receiver screen passes to Devin Wright for gains of 17 and six yards, respectively, and then Blair ran up the middle for 11 yards to get the ball to the Harlan nine-yard line. LCC was out of timeouts and spiked the ball for one final play. The pass was incomplete and LCC found itself trailing 26-0 at halftime.
Harlan County tried a squib kick to begin the second half, but LCC’s Ryan Alzuraqi recovered it at the Cougars’ 45-yard line. After a three-yard run by Jaylyn Williams, Hunter Hall rambled 52 yards for a touchdown. Dustin Holbrook made the extra point to cut the Black Bears lead to 26-7.
On the next series, Alzuraqi sacked Bailey for a five-yard loss to force third and 14. Bailey then threw a shovel pass to Cole Wilson, who scampered 39 yards to get a first down in LCC territory. On the next play Massey ran a sweep around right end for a 40-yard score. Massey also converted the two point attempt to make the score 34-7 in favor of the Black Bears.
Letcher Central fumbled on their next possession and Harlan County wasted no time converting the turnover into points. Bailey threw a touchdown pass from 21 yards to Cornett on the same fade pattern they used on their first connection in the game. The extra point made it 41-7 late in the third quarter.
Blair kept it on a read option for a 20-yard run to get across midfield. Facing fourth and 15, Blair completed a pass to Jaylyn Williams on a seam route for a 17-yard gain and first down at the Harlan County 23- yard line. LCC fumbled the snap on the next play and the Black Bears pounced on it. e
Th Cougars got the ball back on downs after Nick Mullins tackled the ball carrier for a loss on fourth and two. The offense gained one first down on a 19-yard pass to Watts. The drive ended when they turned the ball over on downs at midfield.
Harlan County freshman Rhett Alred then ran up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion made the final score 49-7 in favor of Harlan County.
The Cougars had a disappointing showing against the Black Bears. The now 4-3 Harlan County team has not been playing at the same caliber as in recent years. The LCC offense moved the ball, but simply couldn’t finish drives and lost two fumbles deep in the red zone. Hunter Hall had 83 yards on nine carries and the lone touchdown for the Cougars. Zane Blair completed 10 passes on 22 attempts for 149 yards. Kyler Lucas caught one pass for 53 yards and Houston Watts caught two passes for 46 yards.
Hunter Hall and Jaylyn Williams, who had seven tackles apiece, led the defense. Billy Sturgill had two tackles for loss and Ryan Alzuraqi got the only sack for the Cougars.
Letcher Central plays its most important game of the year at home next week against district foe Perry County Central. A win in that game will greatly enhance the Cougars’ playoff seeding and also boost the morale of the team. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Ermine.