HARLAN — Wth the Green Dragons seemingly in control of the game, the Battle of 119 turned into a war late Friday as the visiting Pineville Mountain Lions scored three touchdowns within six minutes. But it was too little, too late as Harlan held on for the 33-26 district win.
Pineville coach Bart Elam was pleased with the effort late in the game. “These kids don’t quit. They haven’t all year. We kept plugging along and had a couple of things go our way. At the end, we had a shot. “I cannot say enough how our kids competed and stuck with it,” he added.
The Green Dragons scored their final touchdown with 8:13 to play when Cody Logan raced 19 yards. Eric Young’s kick made it 33-6.
Pineville needed just seven plays to answer as senior quarterback Jamie Roan went in from the 1 with 5:59 to play. With the Dragons facing fourth-and-32, the Lions stopped Harlan just short of the first down as Pineville took over on the Dragon 35.
Roan needed only one play as he found Jared Philpot for the touchdown with 2:56 left in the game. The Lions pushed Harlan backward on the next possession and on third down and 30, Harlan quarterback Ty Saragas was intercepted by Conner Ford. The junior defensive back returned the ball 30 yards for a touchdown. Tanner Mike’s two-point conversion pulled Pineville with 7 at the 1:03 mark.
“It’s going to seem crazy when most people see the final score, but I thought for three quarters the defense played really, really well,” said Harlan coach J.B. Donahue. “We’ve got to finish the game.
“We were way ahead and gave up a couple more scores there late in the game, and that’s where’s we’ve got to improve.” The Lions continued their strong play as they recovered an onside kick, but Young intercepted a Roan pass to end the game.
“I thought we had a super night defensively,” said Donahue. “It wasn’t our defense give up those scores, it was the offense and special teams.” The game was scoreless until 4:56 remaining in the first half. Saragas connected with Young for a 26-yard touchdown pass and Young’s kick made it 7-0.
Harlan’s Dakota Morris recovered a fumble as the Dragons took over on their own 25. Two plays later, Ryan Jones caught a 25-yard pass from Saragas for a touchdown. Young added the extra point as Harlan led 14-0 at halftime.
“I thought we came out a little bit flat and they took us out of the run game early,” said Elam. The Dragons held Pineville to 49 yards on the ground in the first half. Harlan marched 60 yards on five plays on their second possession of the third quarter. Saragas found Young for a 17-yard touchdown at the 7:20 mark.
Six minutes later, Young caught a 20-yard pass from Saragas as the lead swelled to 26-0. The Lions took over on their own 47 but needed only one play as Roan connected with Bryan David Asher for a 53-yarder with 47 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Harlan defense held Pineville to 38 yards on the ground. Roan completed 16 of 30 passes for 165 yards. The Lions had 223 total yards. Saragas went 14 for 24 with 212 yards. The Green Dragons gained 132 yards on the ground. Logan paced Harlan with 69 yards on 15 carries. Saragas added 35 yards on four rushes.
The Dragons will be without senior Dalton Overbay the rest of the season. Harlan welcomed former Harlan County running back Cory Chorak for the first game since transferring. Chorak had two rushes for 15 yards.
“It was really good to see Cory out there,” said Donahue. “He set out his time and did his practice days, and he’s earned that chance to be out there. Dalton had surgery today (Friday) and everything went well with the surgery.”
Harlan (1-1 district, 4-4 overall) plays host to Jenkins on Friday. Pineville (1-1, 4-4) closes district play at home against Hazard.