Clay County (2-0) will travel down the dreaded highway 119 to face off with what should be an angry Harlan County Black Bears (0-2) squad who currently rides a rare two-game losing streak. Harlan County and Clay split last season in their two matchups, with Harlan ultimately ousting Clay County from the playoffs in the Tigers last game of the season.
Coach Mike Sizemore welcomes any and all challenges, with Harlan County being no exception. “Harlan County is going to be a big, physical team as they always have been since the consolidation,” said Sizemore. “They return a huge senior class from last year's successful team so we know we have to be ready to make the plays we need to make in order give ourselves a chance to have success over there.”
Size and strength are what Harlan County teams are typically built around. Clay County is built on speed. “Strength wise you know what to expect out of them, they are going to be big and they are going to be physical, so we have to use the advantages that we have in order to give ourselves the best chances of success in this setting,” said Sizemore. “Our kids are coming off of a huge win over Leslie County in a big Rivalry Game so hopefully that momentum and confidence will have some carry over going into this week against the Black Bears. When it comes to weaknesses, we all have about the same right now and that is limited practice and game conditioning going into the district games but hopefully that is going to get better week by week.”
Mental preparation is just as important as physical going into a hard-hitting contest such as this one. Coach Sizemore feels his team needs to play with gritty mentality and be prepared for a classic mountain football type game. “We have to go in there with a mindset that we are going to play tough football until the final whistle sounds,” he said. “Our kids are getting better each week and hopefully this is another opportunity for us to grow and improve in a big game situation against a very good opponent. We have to get the ball to our playmakers early and often to try and offset their size and strength and hopefully we are able to not give up the big plays against them on the defensive side of the ball. I am excited to see our kids play in this big game atmosphere and see what we can do against a quality level opponent. Harlan County has been one of the best in our class the last few years and our kids have to be ready to meet that challenge when we go over Friday night.”
Kickoff is slated for a 7:30PM start time, at Harlan County High School on Friday, September 25th.