HARLAN – These Tigers have no reason to hang their heads. A 53-14 loss to Harlan County on a bone-chilling night at Coal Miners Memorial Stadium simply cannot overshadow the success this football season has brought. However, the Tigers physically and mentally gave up against the Black Bears, and the reason as to why is unknown.
Harlan would intercept Tiger QB Ethan Hacker’s first pass of the game on the opening play to set the tone. Harlan would drive down, and eventually score two straight touchdowns in the opening minutes. A failed onside kick by the Black Bears would open the Tigers eyes a bit, as Hacker would find Brady Wolfe on a third and long to convert for a 37-yard score.
The story would remain for essentially the entirety of the contest. Clay couldn’t muster up any offensive production, while being blown off the ball defensively. The Harlan run game would dominate, posting 375 yards collectively. The Black Bears Jacob Wilson would complete 3-4 passes for 45 yards and a score as well. Hacker would rush for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter to give the Tigers their final points.
Despite the rough loss, Tiger Coach Mike Sizemore is already excited for what the future holds, and happy with the success of this season. “I think the 2019 has had a huge impact on our football program,” he said. “It shows the work and time that we have put in is having a positive result and that we can still put a winning product out on the field. It's been a long time since we've had success like we've had this year and now it's something that our kids still in the program need to work and build upon in the coming years.”
Many things could’ve factored in as to why the Tigers didn’t produce the same level of play as they previously had. Some may think the cold weather played a part, or the long trip. “It's always tough going to Harlan County to play,” said Sizemore. “They have a quality football team this year and football program over there every year. The cold weather definitely makes it tougher this time of the year when you need to be able to play a near flawless game in order to win. It always benefits a team that is as big up front as Harlan County is this year when the weather plays a factor, we have to keep working and moving forward to put ourselves in position to win in these types of games. We have to keep being consistent and working hard to keep moving our football program forward.”
Overall, this season has been huge for the Tiger Football program as a whole. The seniors have left a mark on not only the program, but Coach Sizemore as well. “This group of seniors have been exceptional to work with as a coach, people have no idea the amount of time and effort that a lot of these guys have put in to make themselves into the football players they are,” said an emotional Sizemore. “Most of this years’ team have worked out in the weight room or done fundamental skill/speed work nearly year-round for the last couple of years and it really showed on the field for us. They have played in a consistent scheme on both sides of the ball for the last couple years as well, which does wonders in how kids react to in game situations.
Sizemore and this group have put in a lot of work and time together, and the results showed this year on the scoreboard. “I am extremely proud of these guys,” he said. “Coming back to Clay County a couple years ago, I met a group of sophomores that I thought had the potential to get our football program going back in a positive direction but we had to sale them on the hard work, dedication, and commitment that it takes to achieve that potential and they bought in and were willing to work to achieve something that hasn't been done here in a while and deserve all the success they've had this season. It's a great feeling to see these guys get out here and strive to reach their potential and get better on and off the field. It has really taken us another step forward as a football program and it is an example to our younger kids in our program need to do in order to achieve that success and improve upon it in the future.”