WEST LIBERTY — The Morgan County running game was able to control the clock as well as generate some big plays Friday as the Cougars knocked off Middlesboro 28-6.
Three different backs — Kody Thornsberry, Walker Crase and Jordan Whitt — surpassed the 100-yard mark for Morgan County with Thornsberry and Crase scoring two touchdowns apiece in the game.
“They’ve got a good football team. A lot of people don’t understand, that group right there played in the middle school state championship game a few years ago,” Middlesboro coach Randy Frazier said of the Cougars.
Yellow Jacket sophomore quarterback Major Edwards was 10-of-19 passing for 206 yards and accounted for the Middlesboro TD with a three-yard sneak in the third quarter. But he was sacked six times in the game and intercepted twice in the fourth quarter.
“We knew coming into the ballgame that they ran that 3-3 stack and they brought everybody. Our young kids had trouble picking it up, I thought they picked it up better in the second half,” Frazier said.
Jake Brock had two catches for 82 yards, Zach Riddle three for 76 and Austin Poindexter three for 18 in the game. The Jacket ground attack was led by Seth Barton’s 54 yards on nine carries while Parker Uhl added 32 yards on seven runs.
Barton snapped off a 17-yard run on the opening possession of the game, but Edwards was sacked twice and Middlesboro had to punt the ball away.
The Cougars then went 55 yards on nine plays with Thornsberry scoring from six yards out. Crase ran in the conversion and Morgan County led 8-0 with 4:30 to play in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of possessions, Brock took a swing pass from Edwards and rumbled for a 49-yard gain down to the Cougar 31. But the Jackets were hit with back-to-back 10-yard losses, one on a running play the other on another sack, as they ultimately turned the ball over on downs at the 29.
Crase broke a 47-yard run up the middle after getting hit in the backfield and three plays later he scored on a five-yard run. He added the two-point conversion and the Morgan County lead was 16-0 going into halftime.
The Cougars hurt the Jackets time and again with long runs after Middlesboro defenders failed to wrap up after getting to the ball carrier either at or behind the line of scrimmage. Those missed tackles and the sacks turned out to be difference in the game.
“We missed a tackle here and there and it’s tough for young kids to play against an offense like that,” Frazier added. “But we feel like we’re going to get better from it and we’re going to move on.”
Middlesboro was victimized by the big play again in the third quarter as Whitt found a seam up the middle and galloped 30 yards. That set up a two-yard touchdown run from Crase and the Cougar lead was 22-0 with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter.
The Jackets, who had given up five sacks in the first half, adjusted their blocking scheme a bit and started finding success through the air.
After a 13-yard run from Uhl, Edwards hit Poindexter for 12 yards and another first down. After a mysterious chop block call went against Middlesboro, Edwards found Riddle on wide receiver screen to the right. Riddle cut the play back across the field and picked up big blocks from Barton and Donnie Foister as he made his way to the left sideline and down the field for a 40-yard gain to the Morgan County 27.
The Jackets overcame a holding penalty as Brock made a sensational diving catch on a deep ball for 33-yards. Edwards ran it in from three yards out on the very next play and it was 22-6 at the 3:46 mark of the third.
Whitt broke another long run and a defensive offsides penalty gave the Cougars a 1st & goal at the MHS 10. But the Jacket defense came through with a stand. Two runs gained a net of zero yards and after an incompletion, they threw Thornsberry for a three-yard loss on a swing pass.
Middlesboro looked to be driving their way back into the game as they marched from their own 13 all the way down to the Morgan County 16. Edwards hit Barton for 23 yards, Uhl for seven and Riddle for first downs of 24 and 12 yards along the way. After another sack he sailed a pass over the middle and Zach Bartley intercepted it at the two-yard line with 6:31 to play.
Whitt found a crease and went for a 70-yard gain and Thornsberry capped a 98-yard drive with a 23-yard run on a pitch around the right side to set the final at 28-6.
“We got better as the game went on. We felt like we had a shot there at the end to make it a one-score game with about seven minutes left. Then they get the ball and they break it and then they score,” Frazier said. “They’ve got a really good football team and we’re not taking anything away from them, but we feel like we could have played a lot better.
“Our kid realize they can play better. It’s just a matter of bouncing back and going out next week and getting a win.”
Bartley came up with another interception to end the final Middlesboro drive and Morgan County ran out the clock.
The Cougars finished with 389 yards on 46 carries. Whitt led the way with 154 yards on nine runs, Thornsberry added 116 on 17 carries and Crase ran it 14 times for 109 yards.
Morgan County (5-0) hosts Jackson County next Friday while Middlesboro (2-3) visits Shelby Valley.
— — —
Middlesboro0060 — 6
Morgan Co.8866 — 28
MC- Kody Thornsberry 6 run (Walker Crase run)
MC- Crase 5 run (Crase run)
MC- Crase 2 run (run fail)
M- Major Edwards 3 run (kick fail)
MC- Thornsberry 23 run (pass fail)
— — —
Middlesboro (25-56) — Seth Barton 9-54, Parker Uhl 7-32, Jake Brock 2-3, Major Edwards 7-(-33); Morgan Co. (46-389) — Jordan Whitt 9-154, Kody Thornsberry 17-116, Walker Crase 14-109, Larrin Collins 6-2.
Middlesboro — Edwards 10-19-2-206; Morgan Co. — Collins 1-3-0-(-3).
Middlesboro — Zach Riddle 3-76, Austin Poindexter 3-18, Brock 2-82, Barton 1-23, Uhl 1-7; Morgan Co. — Thornsberry 1-(-3).