HARDIN COUNTY

BY JACK BULLOCK
All high school programs, at one time or another, face adversity.

Last season, the Hardin County Cougars program caught a severe case of the injury bug.

A promising season of what could have been special ended up tough on everyone involved.

Three different senior starters; Tyler Winters, Austin Sievers and Cameron Shaw, missed games last season.

Winter broke his leg, Sievers tore his ACL for the second time in as many seasons and Shaw also tore his ACL.

All three were missed.

Head coach Rodney Lane saw his club slip to 11-17 overall, 3-4 in the conference and they lost a season-ending game to Cairo in the semifinals of their own 1A regional last February.

The good news that came about last season is that by attrition several kids got to move up to varsity and spent time in meaningful games.

This will bode well in the experience category as the Cougars and this coaching staff prepare for the 2017-18 campaign.

Coach Lane mention five returning players with an upside.

According to this coach, “they are the most coach-able group that I have ever had at Hardin County.”

Averaging 10 points a game last season, Jamison Hicks is back for his senior season with with even more offensive potential.

At 6-foot-5 and 290, Hicks will be a difficult Cougar to tame in the paint.

Six-foot senior Hunter Cullum also provided a lot of minutes and numbers as a junior, as he was a solid perimeter player from the backcourt.

Jaron Austin, a 5-foot-10 junior, is heading into his third year of playing varsity and he will be part of a backcourt that should be a solid part of the Cougars' club.

Having three players coming back with that many minutes experience will help get Hardin County going early in the season. A fourth experience player who Coach Lane mentioned is 6-foot-2 junior Gabe Fowler.

This forward came on strong in the latter part of 2016-17 and earned a lot of playing time.

Lane calls him “one of the teams' top defenders” while he also thinks that he will improve offensively this year.

One of the players who lost some games due to injury last year was 6-foot-4 junior Conrad Cowsert, who according to the coach had a great summer working to get better.

Coach Lane is hoping that he and the rest of his team can stay healthy this season.

There will be some reserves that will, like always, prove themselves in preseason practice to earn spots on the roster.

This program has strengthened the regular season schedule this season, a sure sign that everyone involved is thinking ahead.

The Goreville Invitational Tournament, the Eldorado Holiday Tournament and regular season games with three Kentucky teams (Crittenden County, Webster County and Union County) along with match up with Johnston City will help on the competition level.

“This is a great group of kids that are willing to work and compete no matter what the competition,” said Coach Lane. “Due to all of the injuries last year, this group got a lot of valuable varsity experience a year ago. Their willingness to learn along with their effort makes this a fun group to coach. I'm looking forward to coaching this group of young men.”

OUTLOOK – This program has improved so much in the past few seasons, and they have a lot of people to thank, including Coach Lane. Last season they couldn't overcome the injuries but a season of healthy kids could result in another successful run. The upgrade in the schedule will help out in the long run. The Cougars are a threat to win this league title.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N27-D2 Goreville Invitational Tournament J16 @ Union County (KY.)

D8

@ Carrier Mills-Stonefort J19 @ Junction Gallatin County
D9 Crittenden County (KY.) J22-27 GEC Tournament @ SIC
D15 Norris City-Omaha-Enfield J29 Webster County (KY.)
D26-28 Eldorado Holiday Tournament J30 Golconda Pope County
J4 Dongola F3 @ Johnston City
J5 Thompsonville F9 Carrier Mills-Stonefort
J9 @ Galatia F13 Junction Gallatin County
J12 @ Golconda Pope County F16 @ Marion Crab Orchard
J13 @ Crittenden County (KY.) F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD