Larry Harper III has played just three games for Waggener High School’s football team this season, and the Wildcats’ new quarterback is only just starting to get comfortable with the team.
In the last three weeks the junior has thrown for 628 yards and seven touchdowns, and his presence comes while the Wildcats (6-4) are in the midst of their most successful season in a decade.
That comfort level began to show late in the game at Valley on Friday night as they trailed the Vikings 24-21.
After an intentional-grounding penalty on Harper moved the Wildcats back to the Vikings 26 with 2:52 remaining, the former Trinity player, who had been sacked five times in the game, finally found an opening. Harper’s 17-yard scamper set up the winning score on the next play, Frank Bryant’s 9-yard run with 2:04 to go that gave the Wildcats a 27-24 win.
MORE COVERAGE | Late TD lifts Waggener over Valley
PHOTO GALLERY | Photos from the Waggener-Valley game
“I checked my reads, and I saw the middle (of the field) wide-open,” said Harper about his run on the second and 21 play. “I took what the defense gave me.”
As the Wildcats were driving for the winning score, Harper said he kept reminding himself that he needed to finish for the team. It’s that kind of leadership coach Jordan Johnson likes most about his new player.
“He’s getting used to the offense, getting used to the reads (and) making the right decisions,” Johnson said. “But the one thing about him, he doesn’t quit. He just keeps the kids going.”
Bryant, a senior who ran for 63 yards on 15 carries in the win, said he was impressed with Harper’s decision-making ability.
“That’s a big plus for the offense,” he said.
Waggener, which had won a total of six games the last five seasons and last won five games in a season in 2005, will travel to Boyle County for a first round Class 3-A playoff game this Friday.
VALLEY ENDS DROUGHT
For the first time in four years, Valley is going to the playoffs.
Despite losing 27-24 to Waggener on Friday, the Vikings (6-4) capped off their most successful season since 2009, which is also the last time they hosted a playoff game. Collins will come to Valley Friday night for a Class 4-A first round match.
“I think it’s huge,” coach John Spiva said. “It just shows the hard work that the boys put into it.”
MORE COVERAGE | Yellowjackets roll in playoff primer
PHOTO GALLERY | PRP at Central
The Vikings have just 10 seniors on the roster, and several key players are underclassmen. Quarterback Brayden Campos, who threw for two scores Friday, is a sophomore. Receiver Devious Brooks, who caught both touchdowns, is a junior, as is running back Brandon Neely, who ran 116 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
One thing Spiva would like to see from his squad is to not dwell on mistakes. Valley led 18-7 at halftime, but two fumbles early in the third quarter led to Waggener touchdowns and helped the Wildcats mount their comeback.
“We had the momentum, and when you have little mistakes you got to have short-term memory,” Spiva said.
SOUTH OLDHAM’S THOMPSON SUFFERS CONCUSSION
South Oldham could be without one of its top players in the playoffs after senior running back Starr Thompson suffered a concussion during the Dragons’ 28-21 loss to Shelby County on Friday.
Thompson was injured during the first quarter, and the game was delayed for 15 minutes as trainers worked to get Thompson in an ambulance.
“He’s at home and doing fine,” South Oldham coach Jamie Reed said Saturday morning.
Thompson ranks second on the team in rushing (563 yards, nine touchdowns) and receiving (13 catches, 307 yards, four touchdowns). His 13 total touchdowns lead the team.
Thompson must got through a concussion protocol in order to be able to return to action. The Dragons (8-2) will host Southern (3-7) on Friday in the first round of the Class 5-A playoffs.
“We really don’t know if he’ll be able to come back at all,” Reed said. “You can’t replace a guy like Starr. He’s been a major leader on our team the last few seasons.”
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
* Oldham County snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 31-26 victory over Jeffersontown. The Colonels got defensive touchdowns from Isiah Kelly (46-yard fumble return) and Chanse Lanham (12-yard interception return.
Oldham County (1-9) did not qualify for the Class 5-A playoffs.
* Logan Holbrook (eight carries, 106 yards, three touchdowns) and Branden Leff (two carries, 111 yards, one touchdown) had big games on the ground as Spencer County whipped Henry County 41-6 to complete a 9-1 regular season.
Spencer County will host Western on Friday in a first-round Class 4-A playoff game.
* Dylan Garcia passed for 292 yards and three touchdowns to lead Fairdale to a 20-7 victory over Holy Cross.
Each week Jason Frakes will provide his ranking of the top five teams in the state, regardless of class:
* No. 5 – St. Xavier (6-4). Tigers couldn’t get ground game going (26 carries, 79 yards) in a 20-10 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier. Up next: hosts Eastern (5-5) on Friday in first round of Class 6-A playoffs.
* No. 4 – Simon Kenton (10-0). Dillon Powell and Will Parks both ran for two touchdowns in a 44-13 victory over Scott. Up next: hosts Butler (2-8) on Friday in first round of Class 6-A playoffs.
* No. 3 – Scott County (9-1). Noah Hughes (136 yards) and Kendrick Hamilton (123 yards, three TDs) had big games on the ground in a 56-35 win over Covington Catholic. Up next: hosts Clark County (0-10) on Friday in first round of Class 6-A playoffs.
* No. 2 – Trinity (9-1). Did not play. Up next: hosts Pleasure Ridge Park (5-5) on Friday in first round of Class 6-A playoffs.
* No. 1 – Male (10-0). Zackery Smith and Ethan Britt both topped 100 receiving yards in a 56-0 rout of Western. Up next: hosts Jeffersontown (2-8) on Friday in first round of Class 6-A playoffs.
Jaylin Talbott, Southern
The senior quarterback rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and also passed for a score in a 40-13 loss to DeSales.
Zackery Smith, Male
The senior wide receiver had four catches for 119 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown, as the Bulldogs rolled to a 56-0 victory over Western to complete a 10-0 regular-season.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.