Harlan County's Black Bears, looking more like grizzlies, mauled Paul Dunbar 48-20 Saturday afternoon in the iHigh Football Frenzy at Lafayette.
"A mountain team came up here and beat a Lexington team, and I'm proud of that," Harlan County Coach Tom Larkey said.
Bigger, stronger and more experienced up front, the Bears unleashed a punishing ground attack that Dunbar was helpless to stop.
Harlan County had 598 yards, 557 of them rushing.
Its offensive line of D.J. Brock, Chase Calton, J.W. Cooper, Michael Smith and Carson Whitehead opened gaping holes for junior Jake Middleton and senior Marcus McMillian.
Middleton carried 19 times for 220 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown. He also caught a 26-yard scoring pass from Jordy Brewer.
McMillian, who led the team last year with more than 1,300 yards, ran 22 times for 214 yards and three TDs.
"They're both hard-nosed players, aggressive and determined runners," Larkey said. "They get after you on defense, too."
Harlan County, rated No. 3 in Class 5A, scored the first four times it had the ball. It did almost all of the damage on the ground.
Brewer did surprise Dunbar with a fourth-down pass that Middleton turned into a TD to make it 21-0.
When Larkey was building Rockcastle County into a state power (and leading the Rockets to the state finals in 2001 and '02), he had physical, run-oriented teams.
In his fourth year at the new Harlan County High School, Larkey has the same old-school philosophy."
"I'm not much of a passer, so if I can run the ball that's probably what we'll do," Larkey said. "If they can't stop the run, I'll keep doing it."
Derrick Thomas, making his debut as Dunbar coach, knew what his team was facing in its season opener.
"We knew they were big and strong up front, and that they had two experienced running backs and an experienced quarterback," he said.
"We knew it'd be a challenge to stop them, and we couldn't. Bottom line, they were the stronger team."
Thomas did see a silver lining or two in his Bulldogs' performance.
After spinning their wheels in the first quarter, they generated some offense.
Senior running back John Rose rushed six times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Blake Martin, who was under siege by the Bears' defense most of the afternoon, ran for 40 yards and two TDs, and threw for 41 yards.
"I think we've got a lot to build on," Thomas said.
Harlan Co. 14 21 7 6—48
Paul Dunbar 0 14 0 6—20
HC—Tucker Lewis 17 run (Josh Jenkins kick). HC—Jake Middleton 91 run (Jenkins kick). HC—Marcus McMillian 26 pass from Jordy Brewer (Jenkins kick). HC—McMillian 7 run (Jenkins kick). PLD—Blake Martin 13 run (Jon Hurley kick). HC—McMillian 16 run (Jenkins kick). PLD—John Rose 12 run (Hurley kick). HC—Brewer 1 run (Jenkins kick). PLD—Martin 1 run (run failed). HC—McMillian 5 run (kick blocked).