By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Southern Eagles (9-1) advanced to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs with a 49-6 dismantling of Letcher County Central (4-7) Friday.
The outcome was never in doubt as the Eagles got three touchdowns from Damien Harris and one each from Aaron Sipple and Casey Dionne in the first half and took a 35-6 lead into the locker room.
Southern got another Harris touchdown and one from tight Andrew Miller in the third quarter.
After giving up a touchdown on Letcher’s first drive of the game, the Southern defense smothered the Cougars the rest of the night, allowing them to cross midfield only three times — never getting closer than the 25-yard line — the rest of the way.
For the third-consecutive game, the Eagles’ offense was spread among multiple players, once again making it difficult for a team to concentrate on stopping Harris.
“We played well tonight, Southern coach Jon Clark said. “We’re a good football team now. We know what we have and what our guys can do well and we’re playing pretty consistently right now. I feel good about where we are.”
Aaron Sipple got the Eagles on the board first with an 11-yard run three minutes into the game. Garrison Watts’ PAT made it 7-0.
The Cougars came right back with their only successful drive of the night, methodically marching the ball down the field on a 14-play drive that ended with a Jaylan Williams 2-yard touchdown to cut it to 7-6.
But from that point it was all Southern.
The Eagles needed only four plays to extend their lead, with Harris going two-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Watt’s PAT put the Eagles up 14-6.
Four minutes later, Harris made it 21-6 when he raced through the middle of the Cougars’ defense for a 44-yard touchdown from the Wolverine formation.
After Dionne got in on the scoring parade with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 28-6, Harris electrified the crowd with a 75-yard touchdown punt return through the middle of the entire Cougars team to give the Eagles the 35-6 halftime lead.
His fourth touchdown, a 12-yard pass from Aaron Slone four minutes into the second half, made it 42-6.
Miller capped off the scoring with a 12-yard catch from Slone for a touchdown with nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Eagles’ offense had 20 rushes for 185 yards and four touchdowns and another 100 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Harris finished the game with only six carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He had two catches for 21 yards and a touchdown and the punt return touchdown.
Dionne had three carries for 42 yards and a touchdown, Sipple had four carries for 24 yards and a TD and freshman running back A.J. Richardson had three carries for 10 yards.
Through the air, Slone was six-of-10 for 85 yards, Devante Linville had a pass to Slone for nine yards and Jared Simpson had a pass for six yards.
Linville had three catches for 40 yards, J.D. Dean two catches for 30 yards and Miller a catch for 12 yards.
After missing the Eagles’ playoff win last year over Perry County Central because of an injury, Harris was excited to get a postseason win under his belt.
“It was awesome. It was the first home playoff game I’ve played in and the atmosphere from the fans was great,” he said. “It’s unbelievable just to be able to move on to the next round of the playoffs.”
With the win, the Eagles travel to Harlan next week to take on Harlan County (8-3), a 44-7 winner over Lincoln County Friday.
The game will be a rematch of last year when the Black Bears knocked off the Eagles without Harris in the lineup.
Clark said he knows Harlan County is good, but his team is much better than the one that lost to the Black Bears last year.
“We’re stronger, we’re healthier, we’re faster, we’re a better football team than last year,” Clark said. “They are a very good football team, but I feel like we are a better team too, so we’ll see what they’ve got.”