Despite graduation losses, Hornets are still thriving
CHESAPEAKE, Ohio — Coal Grove somehow has turned bad news to good, a minus to a plus.
The Hornets (3-1 overall, 1-0 Ohio Valley Conference) head into Friday’s 7 p.m. football game at Chesapeake (2-2, 0-1) with no seniors on their offensive line. Usually, that’s an indicator of a coming long season, or at least one that begins slowly, as generally the offensive front is the last unit to gel. Coal Grove, however, has pounded River Valley 47-0, rallied from a 20-point deficit to edge Lucasville Valley 21-20 and walloped South Point 55-14. The lone loss was 21-14 at Portsmouth West (4-0), the fourth-ranked team in the state in Division IV.
“We have a lot of fresh faces on the line,” Coal Grove head coach Evan Ferguson said. “Ben Compliment and
Reece York are both back, but we actually don’t have a single senior on the line this year. It will be a young bunch, but so far, they’ve really fared well.”
That offensive line has helped the Hornets place two rushers in the top eight in the conference, with running back Kyle Sites having gained 269 yards on 44 carries and quarterback Nate Harmon picking up 264 yards on 42 attempts. Sites ran for 1,400 yards last season.
Coal Grove went 11-2 last season, won the OVC title and advanced to the third round of the playoffs. The Hornets are tied with Gallia Academy, Ironton and Portsmouth atop the OVC and are 11th in Division VI, Region 23. The top eighth teams in each region will qualify for the playoffs. That means Coal Grove probably can’t afford to stumble if it plans to return to the postseason.
Chesapeake actually is closer to a playoff berth than the Hornets, as the Panthers are ninth in Division V, Region 19, one spot behind Ironton. A victory over Coal Grove could mean a huge boost in ratings points for Chesapeake, a factor not lost on the coaches and players from either team.
The Hornets line not only efficiently run blocks, but has protected Harmon well, allowing him to complete 31 of 50 passes (62 percent) for 405 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Evan Holmes has been Harmon’s favorite target, having caught nine passes for 92 yards. Aaron Music has snagged seven passes for 90 yards.
As Harmon goes at quarterback and in the secondary, so goes Coal Grove.
“He’s just a heck of a football player,” Ferguson said. “And he’s a football player first. He loves to lead out there with his toughness and the kids really respond well to whenever he knows to stick it or stop somebody. His toughness and moxie are great things to have on both sides of the ball.”
Harmon was stellar last week, rushing for three touchdowns and passing for another against South Point. Harmon ran for 110 yards on six carries and completed 7 of 12 passes for 96 yards, all in the first half.
The victor from Friday’s game receives the Little Brown Jug trophy.
COAL GROVE (3-1) AT CHESAPEAKE (2-2)
WHEN: 7 p.m.Friday
RADIO: Cat Sports 93.3-FM and 1340-AM