MORRISTOWN – There will be a lot riding on Friday night’s clash between Harrison Central and Union Local at Jets Stadium, even with both teams coming off tough losses last week.
Coach Bernie Thompson’s 1-2 record Union Local squad played a solid second half at Martins Ferry last week but still came up on the short end of a 30-18 count to the Purple Riders. Meanwhile, Coach Anthony Hayes’ 2-1 record Huskies dropped a 33-21 decision at unbeaten Bellaire.
“We came away from that Martins Ferry game very pleased with how hard-nosed the kids played and how they never quit,” Thompson admitted. “They beat us 50-7 last year and we had four first half turnovers that put us in a 22-0 hole last Friday.”
Harrison Central, meanwhile, got another stellar game from senior do-it-all Kobe Mitchell, but dropped passes and injuries were the Huskies undoing at Bellaire.
“Most of what we went through were mechanical problems last week, but it was a good effort and the kids left everything on the field,” Hayes said. “We did get dinged up a little bit and it makes us a little thin when we lose a few starters, but the young kids that came in played well and hopefully we can get healthy soon.”
Sophomore quarterback Carter Blake, sophomore running back Jaksan Price and junior wide receiver Caleb McWhorter are turning into a nice three-headed monster on offense for Union Local.
Blake had another fine outing, hitting 14 of 23 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times, while rushing five times for 46 yards and a score. Price, meanwhile, had 19 totes for 67 yards and a touchdown while McWhorter had seven catches for 87 yards and a score.
The Jets’ defense allowed 226 yards on the ground and four touchdowns but did limited Ferry to just 91 yards through the air.
“They have improved so much since last year and you have to give credit to Coach Thompson and his staff for that,” Hayes mentioned of Union Local. “You can see they have much more confidence and those kids are going to give teams problems all over the field.”
While the Huskies have a number of athletes themselves, everything begins with their fourth-year starting quarterback Mitchell. Against the Big Reds Mitchell 15 of 34 through the air for 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception while also adding 124 yards and two scores on the ground on 18 carries. In all the senior dandy accounted for 332 total yards of offense and three scores.
Junior James Brooks has had a fine start to the 2020 campaign but was injured in the first half last week and had only seven carries for 22 yards. Junior Trevor Carman had a big day with seven catches for 108 yards while senior Kanyon Coleman caught a 35-yard scoring strike from Mitchell. Sophomore Caleb Cowans also missed the second half with an injury.
Through their first two games the Huskies had scored 96 points while allowing only 30, both numbers they had trouble matching against Bellaire.
“Harrison Central is a very talented team with arguably the best player in the Valley in Kobe Mitchell,” Thompson commented. “You have to be aware of that kid every play, on both sides of the ball. Beating them starts with stopping, or at least slowing down, Mitchell.
The game is very big for both sides for many reasons with the Huskies still having showdowns with Martins Ferry and St. Clairsville on the six-game regular season slate and Union Local trying to turn the corner having broken a 16-game losing streak just two weeks ago against Buckeye Local.
“We have been preaching to the kids, and believe they understand, that once we get this thing going, we are going to be in good shape,” Thompson added. “And they understand that this could be their last home game of the season and want to send the seniors out with a one. If we continue to be a disciplined football team and do the right things, we are going to be alright.”
Hayes also likes where his team is headed.
“We felt like we had some pretty good skill guys coming into the season, but our offensive line was a question mark,” Hayes commented. “But those kids have done a real good job through three games and we only see them continuing to improve and allowing us to run the football, which in the long run is going to make us a more successful team.”
Harrison Central has won the last two games of the series by 40-6 and 28-7 scores with the Jets last tasting victory in 2017 by a 36-18 count.