By Robert Clark
Last week, the Eagles accomplished something they hadn’t been able to do in seven years.
Madison Southern defeated Perry County Central, 37-36, at home in the opening-round of the Class 5A Playoffs. The Eagles earned their first postseason win since 2005 despite the absence of standout running back Damien Harris
The victory sets up a second-round showdown on the road tonight against Harlan County.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. in Baxter.
Without Harris, who is questionable for today’s game, Southern relied on the senior leadership of quarterback Adam Simpson and running backs Coty Russell and Wes Proctor.
The Eagles have showcased some consistency in the passing game lately. Simpson passed for two touchdowns last week and ran for another score from 25 yards out. Simpson has rushed for a touchdown in each of his last three games and thrown four touchdowns with no interceptions.
“Adam is in full playoff form,” Southern coach Jon Clark said. “He is throwing and running at a high level and continues to put the offense in position to have success.”
Harlan County (9-2) finished the regular season and went undefeated in district and region play. The Black Bears opened the playoffs with a victory last week, defeating Lincoln County 52-14.
They rushed the ball for nearly 300 yards and forced four turnovers.
Southern defeated Lincoln County, 47-19, on the road earlier this year.
Harlan County coach Tom Larkey has more than 280 wins and have taken two teams to the state championship. He has the Black Bears averaging 41 points per game, while allowing only 18 points.
Southern is posting very similar numbers.
The Eagles are averaging 38 points a game, while allowing just 19 points a game.
Earlier in the season, the Black Bears defeated Perry County Central, 55-20.
Jake Middleton leads the Harlan County offense. He has rushed for 1,848 yards on the season to go along with 26 touchdowns on the ground.
“We have got to tackle well and protect the football,” Clark said.
Despite the Eagles success in the fourth quarter last week, they have had huge turnovers and penalties in the final period that either have let teams play their way back into games or rally for victories. Of the team’s four losses this season, three were by a single point.
Last week the Eagles were on the winning side of a one-point game.
“Everything that has happened prepares you for the playoffs those one-point losses helped us realize what was at stake,” Clark said.
The Eagles have avenged four losses from the previous season on their way to their first winning season since 2005.
The Eagles are prepared to take the next step and going into games as an underdog has not phased the Eagles all season.
“Our guys are focused and ready for the opportunity,” Clark said.