Using the same formula of power football that helped them win the Mountain Middle School Athletic Association league championship a year ago, the Evarts Wildcats opened defense of their title with a 32-0 win over Cumberland in the HCHS Bowl at Coal Miners Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A steady diet of Jordan Steele and Kobe Burkart, both stars on last year’s championship team, was more than the Redskins could handle. Steele, at 6-foot and 235 pounds, and Burkhart, at 5-11 and 215 pounds, simply bulled their way over the much smaller Cumberland defenders on their way to numerous big gains.
With Steele at nose guard and Burkhart at linebacker, the Redskins had nowhere to run and were limited to minus 41 yards of offense for the game and only one first down.
Cumberland lost its two best offensive weapons to injuries during the game as quarterback Zac Collett went out in the first quarter and Josh Swanner, who moved from running to quarterback, left the game in the third quarter.
Evarts set the tone on its opening drive with a seven-play, 76-yard march. Burkhart had a 29-yard run and Isaac Taulbee went 15 yards on a quarterback keeper before Steele went the final 11 for a touchdown with 46.6 seconds left in the opening period. Burkhart had the first of three two-point conversions in the half with a run right through the heart of the Cumberland defense.
Gavin McLain had a tackle for a big loss on the Redskins’ next possession, setting up another Evarts touchdown. Burkhart rumbled 20 yards on the first play of the drive. With the WIldcats facing a third and 17 after a holding penalty, Zack Potter broke free around the right side for a 36-yard touchdown. Burkhart’s conversion pushed the lead to 16-0 with 1:53 left in the half.
Taulbee recovered a fumble on the Cumberland 17 to give Evarts another scoring opportunity before the break. Steele needed only one play to reach the end zone on a sweep around the left side. Burkhart’s conversion made the score 24-0.
After stopping the Skins on downs, Evarts struck again when Steele broke through the line and rumbled 87 yards for a touchdown with 11.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Zack Potter went in for the two-point conversion to close the scoring.
While the Wildcats powered their way to a win, the New Harlan found success by using their speed to make big plays.
Matt Brown had three carries for 195 yards, all in the first half, and scored two touchdowns as the Jon Reynolds era began with a 30-8 victory.
Brown provided a long look at what was to come on the first play as he raced 70 yards for a touchdown on the opening play.
A stop on defense set up another quick score as Brown went 47 yards for a first down on the Letcher 12. Justin Maiden scored two plays later on a 3-yard run. Quarterback Josh Turner went in for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter.
Brown raced 78 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Turner’s conversion gave the Patriots a 22-0 lead with 4:02 left in the first half.
Hunter Blevins and Turner each picked up first downs on the Patriots’ final scoring drive, caped by Tanner Jordan’s 29-yard run. Brown added the two-point conversion for a 30-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Letcher Central avoided the shutout in the fourth quarter as Sam Little raced 70 yards for a touchdown, then added the two-point conversion.