The Middlesboro Yellow Jackets are coming off their best showing of the year, a 54-0 win at Shelby Valley, as they prepare to start district play at Lexington Christian Academy on Friday.
Coach Randy Frazier said it’s matter of his young Jackets taking that performance and building off it as they continue to improve.
“I thought we played the best all-around game, defensively and offensively, that we’ve played since I’ve been here. It’s great to get that to come together before we get into district play,” he said. “Hopefully we can build off that and not take a step back. The kids have to understand that, obviously LCA is a better team than we played last week.”
Sophomore quarterback Major Edwards was a very efficient 13-of-15 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s win.
Senior receiver Zach Riddle said the win helped the entire team’s confidence as well as Edwards.
“He had a good game, threw the ball good even though it was wet. Hopefully it builds his confidence and he’ll continue to get better as we go,” Riddle said. “It felt good, we walked out there and just killed it. Everybody was expecting it to be a close game, but we just came out and did our job.”
Riddle had an interception in Friday’s win and fellow defensive back Donnie Foister also had a pick and stripped a ball to force a fumble that was returned for a TD. Foister said getting the shutout was big for the defense.
“Our line did real well. They contained, Austin (Poindexter) and our outside linebackers did a great job of forcing things back inside. Our secondary got a couple of interceptions,” said Foister, a junior. “I think we turned a big corner because everybody has been doubting us this year and last week we showed how good we can be as a team when all come out and play together.”
Poindexter, for his part, caught one long touchdown pass and came close to having two more — he was stopped at the one-yard line after one catch and at the three on another.
“We’re coming together and the young people are starting to grow up,” said Poindexter, a junior. “We’re playing some great football right now. I’m ready to play this part of the schedule, we haven’t won a game since we got put into this district. I’m just ready to go out there and play. We want to beat LCA.”
Last season the Eagles were able to contain a high-powered Middlesboro passing attack and pulled away late for a 30-12 win. This year’s Jackets are more balanced on offense so LCA will have to pay attention to both the run and the passing game.
“We definitely feel better about being more balanced. We’re going to see a defense like the one we saw at Morgan County, they like to bring a lot of people and that makes it tough to run,” Frazier said. “Our passing game is going to have to be on, we’re going to have to have time and we’re going to have to run the ball. We’ve got to be very disciplined because that defense of their’s is challenging.”
This year the Eagles (4-2) bring the high-powered passing attack as they’ve thrown for over 900 yards on the year. Dima Ballard has completed 43-of-95 passes for 797 of those yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Justin King is the leading receiver with 21 catches for 498 yards and six TDs. Sam Maybriar leads LCA on the ground with 304 yards on 52 carries and two scores.
“It’s going to be a challenge to go up there and win, they’ve got a really good football team. They line up in so many formations offensively and defensively it makes it hard,” Frazier said. “The key for us is going to be to play hard, because it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Middlesboro (3-3) has been pointing toward the start of district play from the time the season started. The Jackets have only three seniors and a majority of the starters on both sides of the ball are sophomores. Their three losses have all come against 3A teams that are ranked in the AP Top 10, and two of those could have gone right down to the wire if not for two or three plays.
“With a young team like we’ve got, we wanted to get better every week and I feel like in some aspects we have. We’ve got so many sophomores out there that hadn’t played before and it takes time to find ourselves,” Frazier said. “Somebody said this is the biggest game we’ve played all year, but in my opinion as young as we are every game is the biggest. We haven’t won a game in this district, LCA is up next, and it’s the biggest game we’ll have until next week.”
Friday’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.