Don’t call it an upset, the Yellow Jackets simply beat Bell County at their own game.
It was Middlesboro using their size advantage up front to sustain drives with lots of four- and five-yard runs. The Jackets ran the ball 56 times for 204 yards, piled up 22 first downs and scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to pull out a 28-14 win on Log Mountain.
It’s the first win over the Bobcats for MHS since 1997 (eight games), and the first in three tries for coach Randy Frazier.
“It’s the kids, not anything we’ve done. These kids have got in the weight room and worked the last three years. We told them that if they want to compete against the likes of Bell County or Somerset, Danville and LCA, they’ve got to get in the weight room. I think that’s what won the football game for us,” Frazier said. “We started in there three years ago with a bunch of freshman and sophomores and now they are juniors and seniors. Through the weight room is how you win football games and it was a while coming.”
Juniors Ryan Pittman, Seth Barton and Major Edwards all ran for short touchdowns and Edwards hooked up with senior Donnie Foister for a 36-yard touchdown pass to account for the Jackets’ scoring.
Edwards finished with 67 yards on 20 carries and was 6-of-14 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown. Pittman led the Jackets with 71 yards on 16 carries while Barton added another 66 yards on 20 runs.
“We’ve got a lot of great running backs and we don’t care who we give it to. If we need to throw it, we’ve got a bunch of great receivers and our quarterback does a great job. It’s a complete team effort,” Frazier said. “There were times in the middle of the week that we saw things our scout team did that would have hurt us against Bell, but we were able to make adjustments. Every kid here should be proud to be a part of the team, even if they didn’t get in this game they were a big part of us winning. It took all 39 of us and I want to give them all the credit.”
Bell County managed 234 yards on 41 rushing attempts, but did a lot of their damage on big plays.
Evan Brock broke a 32-yard run on the Bobcats’ first play from scrimmage and Chase Woolum scored a few plays later on a two-yard plunge. Hayden Gilbert’s kick put Bell up 7-0.
Trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, Bell’s Devon Miller forced and then recovered a Middlesboro fumble at midfield. Two plays later Austin Caldwell found an opening up the middle and went 46 yards to the end zone. Dylan Cox hit the extra point to tie the game at 14 with 6:45 to play in the third quarter. Caldwell led the Bobcats with 112 yards on 14 carries.
The Jackets answered with a 16-play drive and Barton’s 1-yard TD run with 1:40 to play in the third quarter gave Middlesboro the lead for good.
“It is what it is. Middlesboro whipped us, that’s the bottom line,” Bell coach Wayne Mills said. “Randy’s got a nice ball club, nice backs. Everything I said and thought they were, they proved to be that. We had some starters go down and they just beat us, whipped our tail.”
The Bobcats appeared to have the Jackets stopped early in that drive after Jake Brock caught a screen pass for a 2-yard gain on third and nine, but a 15-yard facemask penalty gave Middlesboro a first down. Edwards had a 12-yard run and then Pittman slipped a tackle in the backfield and got around the right side for a 5-yard gain to convert on fourth down. From there the Jackets ran the ball seven straight times to cover the final 39 yards.
“We had a lot of momentum. Then they just took it right at us. I feel like that’s a little bit of our Achilles heel right now, but our kids will keep battling,” Mills said. “This game doesn’t define our season. I know it’s a rivalry game and it’s been a long time since Middlesboro beat us. They’ve been working for it and they just beat us today.”
Pittman intercepted a pass at the Bell 28 on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Bobcat defense held and forced a turnover on downs.
Trailing just 21-14, Bell County drove from their own 27 to the Middlesboro 40. After eight runs and 33 yards, Peyton Collett was stopped on a quarterback sneak on fourth and short. The Bobcats didn’t like where the ball was spotted and one of them drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call for saying something to the officials.
One play later Bell was called for defensive offsides and another unsportsmanlike conduct call gave the Jackets a first down at the Bobcat 20. Seven plays later Edwards scored on a fourth-down sneak from just inches away from the goal line to seal the win with less than a minute to play.
Mills was not pleased with the penalties.
“Why do you penalize a kid for saying ‘That’s a terrible spot’? That was a bush league call, I feel like. They’ve got to be more professional there. The other call was a kid talking to himself,” he said. “The referees have got to control the game, but two 15-yard penalties like that is really uncharacteristic of our kids and they never really explained them. When you get that late in the game I don’t really know the purpose of a call like that once they’ve already stopped you on fourth down.”
The game was started on Friday night, but play was suspended because of darkness early in the second quarter with the Bobcats leading 7-6 after a Pittman three-yard touchdown run got Middlesboro on the board. They picked back up on Saturday and the score remained 7-6 until late in the half.
Jake Brock returned a punt 20 yards out the the 25 and Edwards picked up three yards on a sneak to convert a fourth down at the 37. Edwards hit Barton for a gain of 24 yards up the left seam and later gained 13 yards on a scramble. Gilbert made a diving tackle on that play, but had to leave the game after taking a knee to the head. He was later taken to the hospital for observation with a possible concussion. The Bobcats were already down one safety after Evan Brock wasn’t able to suit up after suffering a leg injury on Friday.
Middlesboro took advantage two plays later as Foister out-jumped a pair of Bobcats in the end zone to haul in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Edwards. Foister was able to run in the conversion and Middlesboro took a 14-7 lead into the half.
The Bobcats tied it up early in the third but wouldn’t score again and the Jacket running game controlled things from there.
“This was probably the most unselfish exhibition of football I’ve seen,” Frazier told his team after the game. “We were not selfish, we didn’t get down on each other, and you came up here and beat Bell County at Bell County. It’s a great win for you, it’s a great win for this community and I’m proud of you guys.”
The coach said this one has to go down as his best win at MHS.
“When I first came to Middlesboro we played Letcher Central. I remember they were top five in the Mountains and that’s my home town. That’s one of the biggest wins I’ve had, but it doesn’t compare to this,” he said. “To beat a Bell County team with the great job they do up here with their football — Wayne Mills, Fred Hoskins and those guys do an unbelievable job. It’s hard to put it into words.”
Bell County (2-2) has another big rivalry game on Friday as they travel to Knox Central while Middlesboro (3-0) will try to keep their unbeaten season going at Harlan.
BC- Chase Woolum 2 run (Hayden Gilbert kick)
M- Ryan Pittman 3 run (kick fail)
M- Donnie Foister 36 pass from Major Edwards (Foister run)
BC- Austin Caldwell 46 run (Dylan Cox kick)
M- Seth Barton 1 run (Tanner Hoskins kick)
M- Edwards 1 run (Hoskins kick)
|First downs ||22||14|
RUSHING — Middlesboro: Ryan Pittman 16-71, Major Edwards 20-67, Seth Barton 20-66; Bell: Austin Caldwell 14-112, Chase Woolum 14-49, Evan Brock 1-32, Corey Swanner 7-22, Jake Barton 1-12, Peyton Collett 4-7.
PASSING — Middlesboro: Edwards 6-14-0-115; Bell: PCollett 2-6-1-22.
RECEIVING — Middlesboro: Austin Poindexter 2-29, Donnie Foister 1-36, Cole Frazier 1-24, Barton 1-24, Jake Brock 1-2; Bell: Ben Collett 1-12, Justin Warwick 1-10.