Playing a Bell County team that will likely be better than anyone they see during the regular season, the Harlan Green Dragons did nothing to temper the preseason optimism around them by staying close all the way against the Bobcats before falling 21-14 on Friday in the Southeastern Kentucky Conference Gridorama.
Drew Parks and Kilian Ledford each had touchdown passes for the Green Dragons, who held their own against Bell, a 3A power.
The Bobcats grabbed an early lead, carving up the Harlan defense on a five-play opening drive that featured two long runs by junior fullback Nathan Collett. Senior quarterback Peyton Collett found Austin Asher on a short pass that turned into a 37-yard touchdown play. Kyle Lee’s extra point gave Bell a 7-0 lead.
Harlan was stopped on the opening drive, but senior linebacker Nick Jarvis picked off a Collett pass on the Bell 23 to put the Dragons’ offense in business. Parks found Noah Busroe for a 12-yard gain, then found senior Britt Pugh for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Pedro Roman’s extra point pulled Harlan even.
Bell wasted little time responded as Marcus Collins and Ethan Murray each picked up first downs before Collins went in from the 5. Lee’s extra point gave the Bobcats a 14-7 lead.
Harlan threatened to tie the scrimmage late in the half as Jarvis and Paul Stapleton each picked up first downs before the drive stalled.
The Dragons moved the ball well again to start the second half as Kendal Brock ran for one first down and Kilian Ledford connected with Dalton Lay for another. Jarrett McKenzie picked up a first down on the Bell 4 before the Bell defense stiffened and stopped Ledford on fourth down.
A 14-yard touchdown run by Collins with 2:33 left all but put the game away for Bell. Lee added his third extra point.
Long runs by Ledford and Troy Barton helped Harlan reach the end zone again. Ledford capped the drive when he teamed with McKenzie for a 25-yard scoring strike with 1:23 to play. Roman hit the extra point.
Harlan is open Friday before opening its regular season schedule Aug. 28 at South Floyd.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134