Harlan drops football series against HCHS

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The much-anticipated first meeting in football between Harlan County and Harlan set for Aug. 23 at Coal Miners Memorial Stadium won’t happen.

Harlan County Schools Supt. Brent Roark announced the cancelation this afternoon in an e-mail, noting Harlan did not have enough players “to make the game possible.”

Roark said next year’s game, also set for Coal Miners Memorial Stadium, was also canceled.

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“The game will be recorded as a 1-0 forfeit win for Harlan County and will count on the win/loss record of both schools,” Roark said. “Both districts greatly regret that the much-anticipated game could not be played. The remainder of the series between (Harlan) and HCHS (the 2020 football game) will be canceled as well. Harlan County will not schedule a replacement game for the Aug. 23 date. The date will remain open on the Harlan County schedule.”

“We regret that we find ourselves in this situation at this time. Being a small school district, we are often affected by participation trends more drastically than larger schools,” Harlan Independent Schools Supt. C.D. Morton said. “The fluctuation changes that we deal with from year to year requires us to be very flexible and sometimes creates unfortunate situations like this one. As a result, we have to be very sensitive and make sure we are making decisions that are in the best interest of all students.

“However, this is something we thought could happen and have been monitoring it for a while. We have been communicating with Superintendent Roark since March and have been working together to explore other options hoping that cancellation would be a last resort. As a result, when you look at what is best for all students it is difficult to identify how students from either program could benefit by competing.”

Harlan had 17 players at a practice session last week, but first-year coach Eric Perry said the team had as many as 19 players in earlier practices.

“The low numbers of participation are something we have seen before and will certainly be a challenge moving forward. We will continue to put our full support behind coach Perry and do everything we can to support and encourage him as he looks to build the football program for the future,” Morton said. “He’s excited and positive and the kids participating are excited. We wish Harlan County nothing but success on the upcoming season.”

“Our numbers are low and at this point, even if more come out, we can not have enough ready to be in situation to play a Harlan County,” said Harlan High School Principal Britt Lawson. “We hate that we couldn’t make it happen. We wanted to be able to play but do not feel it is in the best interest.”

“I regret the outcome as this game had a lot of folks excited,” Harlan County coach Eddie Creech said. “We wish Harlan the best in accumulating a larger roster in the coming weeks. It is unfortunate for our guys, but I hope both county teams have a successful year in 2019.”

Perry said 19 players had attended at least one practice, but he has never had more than 16 at one practice.

“I will say that the 12 who have been consistently attending have worked their tails off,” he said. “It’s probably the most courageous 12 kids I have ever been associated with.”

The Harlan Independent District will reportedly pay a $4,000 forfeit fee for dropping both games, as the contract between the two schools stipulated.

It would have been the first game between two Harlan County high school teams since Oct. 26, 2007, when Cawood knocked off Cumberland 25-22 in the final season before consolidation brought together Cawood, Cumberland and Evarts high schools to form Harlan County High School. Harlan and Harlan County hadn’t played in the 11 years since HCHS opened.