By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Coming off a very disappointing 3-8 season in 2011 — a season that ended with a 20-0 playoff loss at Harlan County — the Pulaski County Maroons were one of the feel-good stories in Kentucky this year.
Thanks to a 7-3 regular season mark in 2012 that included a third district crown in the past four years, opposing coaches, fans, and media alike felt that Johnny Hines’ club was actually about a year ahead of where most thought Pulaski County would wind up this season.
However the only thing that mattered last night for the Maroons was the fact that PC found itself behind in the only place the mattered — the scoreboard.
Yes, unfortunately for the Maroon faithful, the third time would not be the charm for Hines and company last night in the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
The home-standing Harlan County Black Bears rolled over PC for the third consecutive year ending the Maroons season yet again with an impressive beatdown over Hines and crew.
Tom Larkey’s club rolled up 358 yards of total offense on Friday night while holding PC to just 31 yards on the ground on 21 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Black Bears returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and in the end, it all ended up in a very disappointing end to the season for the Maroons with a 46-12 setback.
“I’m very proud of our team, but we didn’t play very well tonight,” said a very disappointed coach Hines after his club finished the season with a 9-4 mark.
“We played bad and got beat — Harlan County is a very good football team and we wish them well,” Hines added. “I am proud of our team and the progress we made this year. I think if someone would have told us that we would be playing for a regional championship this year way back in the summer, I don’t think many people would have believed that. I am very proud of our seniors and the leadership they gave us to bring us to this point.”
Harlan County took control of things from the outset last night against the Maroons, racing out to a 20-0 lead over PC right out of the gate.
And, it all started with a turnover.
Cole Wilson intercepted a Riley Hall pass and returned it 30 yards for a score, and just like that the Black Bears had a 7-0 advantage over the Maroons.
But, there would be much, much more to come from the home folks.
Carson Whitehead’s 32-yard run for a score extended the margin to 14-0 in favor of the Black Bears, while a Zach Chitwood 4-yard score gave Harlan County a 20-0 cushion late in the first period.
Aaron Smith finally got the Maroons on the board with a 1-yard plunge trimming the deficit to 20-6, but the Black Bears — as they did all night — would have the answer.
A Whitehead 4-yard TD run and a Justin Napier two-point conversion run gave the Black Bears a 28-6 lead late in the first half.
The Maroons then struck for a score thanks to a 54-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Alec Wooldridge cutting the deficit to 28-12, but once again Harlan County would answer.
A Jake Middleton 27-yard run for a touchdown just before halftime gave Harlan County a 34-12 lead at the break over the Maroons, sending Pulaski County down into a hole Hines’ club could not dig itself out of.
“The biggest thing that sticks out to me about this team — regardless of the grade level — is the fact that they were able to get to this point, yet they were not at all satisfied,” said Hines.
“They’re broken hearted about not going on, and that says something about this team,” added the PC coach.
Harlan County tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half, meaning the Black Bears ended PC’s season for the third straight season, with last night’s 46-12 victory over the Maroons.
“I hate it for our seniors that they went out this way, because this game was not indicative of how good our team really is, and how well our guys have played for basically the entire year,” stated a dejected Maroons head coach.
“I will tell you this however, we will be back,” Hines added. “We will be back.”
PC — 6 6 0 0 — 12
HC — 20 14 6 6 — 46
HC — Wilson 30 Int. Ret. (Wilson kick)
HC — Whitehead 32 run (Wilson kick)
HC — Chitwood 4 run (Kick failed)
PC — Smith 1 run (Kick failed)
HC — Whitehead 4 run (Napier conv. run)
PC — Wooldridge 54 pass from R. Hall (Kick failed)
HC — Middleton 27 run (Kick failed)
HC — Long 57 Int. ret. (Conv. run failed)
HC — Bailey 1 run (Kick failed)
RUSHING — (PC) Goins 15-35, Smith 4-7 TD, Wooldridge 1-3. (HC) Whitehead 17-141 2 TD, Middleton 13-94 TD, Long 8-59, Chitwood 7-35 TD, Curry 2-26.
PASSING — (PC) Hall 5-16 TD 4 INT. (HC) Bailey 0-1 0.
RECEIVING — (PC) Wooldridge 1-54 TD, Hall 3-38, Goins 1-27.
(John Middleton/Harlan Daily Enterprise and John Henson/Harlan County Sports.com contributed
to this story)