By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets were in the same boat last season that Harlan is this season. When the two teams met up in the second round of the playoffs in 2011, it was the Yellow Jackets who were trying to erase the memory of a regular season loss to the Green Dragons, in which they did.
And now, Harlan will try to return the favor Friday on the road when the two teams meet up to play in the second round of the Class A playoffs.
"The kids remember we lost the game early in the season last year and came back and won late. We know they are looking to do the same thing," said Williamsburg coach Jerry Herron. "Coach (J.B.) Donahue has done a great job with his team, and we know he will have them ready to come down here and play."
The Green Dragons turned in one of their worst performances of the season in a 36-0 loss at Williamsburg early in the season. Harlan was outgained by close to 300 yards in that contest.
"The boat they were in last year is the boat we are in this year. We just have to play better. They have an impressive football team. We just want to go down there and make them prove we are better than them," Donahue said. "I think the kids are focused on trying to prove that we are better than we were on Aug. 24."
An aggressive Williamsburg defense limited Harlan to just 127 yards of total offense in the regular season meeting.
“We know it’s not going to be an easy game,” Herron admitted. “What makes it even more tough is that we beat them earlier in the season and we need to continue to make sure our kids take this game serious, which they will.
“We know they’re going to be ready to play. They are a well-coached team and I’m sure they’ve been waiting the entire season to get back at us.”
Herron said he expects Harlan to blitz his team more on defense and his players will have to be ready for that.
“I believe they’ll blitz us more, but we’ve been doing a very good job of seeing what’s open,” Herron said. “Our kids realize what is at stake. Last year we got to the third round of the playoffs and this year we’ve stressed to them not to settle and to finish the season. Right now, they are focused on Harlan.”
Williamsburg enters the game solid at running and passing the ball. Quarterback Dalton Sizemore leads the way with 462 rushing yards and five touchdowns while Jefferson Patrick has nine touchdowns and 384 yards on the ground.
Sizemore has completed 172-of-280 pass attempts while throwing for 2,781 yards and 36 touchdowns. His main targets are Corey Shelton, Skyler Griffith and Andrew Griffith.
Shelton has 57 receptions for 1,007 yards and 19 touchdowns while Skyler Griffith has 51 catches for 1,050 yards and 12 touchdowns. Andrew Griffith has come on as of late and has 13 catches for 262 yards and three scores.
“Defensively, we have to play to get back in the huddle. They are going to make some plays, but we can't let them have the wide-open big play," Donahue said. "We have to try to make them earn their way down the field.”
A big key to Williamsburg’s success will be Sizemore, who leads the state with 2,781 passing yards.
"Dalton is very strong mentally and physically. He is one of the stronger kids on the team. He is a good team leader and is very unselfish. Dalton is also really fortunate to have some talent around him to make plays," Herron said. "Offensively, we are a believer that defenses always have to give up something. They can't stop everything. We just try to take what's there and make plays that are given to us."
The two teams have met in the playoffs three times before with Harlan picking up a 20-16 win in 1979 and a 42-35 victory in 2006 before the Yellow Jackets returned the favor last season with a 38-6 win.
Sports Editor’s note — John Middleton contributed to the story.