Jackets start season 3-0

The Middlesboro boys soccer team made history on Tuesday. After defeating Knox Central and Harlan County in their first two games of the season, the Jackets continued their early season success with a 1-0 victory over the Panthers. The win makes them the first Middlesboro boys soccer team to start the season 3-0.

“I really like this year’s team. They’re fun to coach, they work hard, they’ve got a good personality, they’re competitive, they like to get after it, and now we’re winning,” said Middlesboro coach Tim Millett. “Winning is a great thing.”

The win also makes Middlesboro one of the only teams still undefeated in the 13th Region. Oneida Baptist Institute, who the Jackets will square off against in the 13th Region All A Classic on Sept. 4, is also 3-0.

“It feels really great, and I’m really happy for the players because we as a team are really jelling and developing,” said Millett. “We’re short on numbers. I’d like to have a few more players out, but we’re not short on heart. Winning breeds confidence.

“The first game we played (Knox Central) was a district game. That (win) really bolstered us. That got our confidence up. The kids are understanding the concept of soccer better, and we’re relying on each other more as a team. It’s a great feeling. The kids are happy, the coaches are happy, and everything is really good right now.”

Thaisan Sin sealed the game late in the second half scoring on a sliding kick inside the box after Alvero Arieta found him for the assist at the 33:15 mark —giving the Jackets a 1-0 lead.

Middlesboro had two other opportunities to add goals in the second. Sin hit Jabari Kyle on the free kick, but Kyle barely missed the shot wide of the near post. Arieta came up short on a goal kick near the 40-minute mark in the second half as well.

The Jackets controlled possession for most of the game. They finished with 10 shots on goal and 25 shots overall. Kyle and TJ Patterson were in on many of those shots while Arieta and Sin provided some much needed attempts as well.

“Jabari Kyle and TJ Patterson, I’m pushing them to the next level. Early in the season, they didn’t think they could get there,” said Millett. “I said ‘last year, my expectations for you were about 25 to 30 percent in shots on goal.’

“‘This year, you’re much better. You’re experienced, you’re more skilled, you’re understanding the game better. I’m expecting 50 to 60 percent of your shots on goal.’ Next thing you know, Jabari has a hat trick in the first game. TJ has goals and assists, and the confidence level and the understanding is there.”

One of the biggest bright spots for Middlesboro during Tuesday’s game was the defense. Knox Central had trouble penetrating toward the goal with the likes of Danny Linn and Joey Napier clearing the ball every time the Panthers got close.

“Our defense is really solid. Joey Napier is doing an outstanding job anchoring the defense down. Tyshaun Simpson (is) playing a brand new role, and boy he plays hard,” said Millett. “Bryson Barnard and Ethan Barton at midfielder, they’re doing a bang up job. They’re controlling the midfield.”

“Christian Helton is a new player this year. He has a little soccer background. He played youth soccer,” said Millett. “He’s come out and had to learn how to be competitive and had to learn how to be coached a little bit. He’s doing a bang up job. He is the first man off the bench and playing multiple positions and doing an outstanding job.”

The few times Knox was able to get a shot off, keeper Steven Poore prevented the goal.

“Coach (Kelly) Hiersche has done a terrific job with (Steven). There isn’t another goalie in the league that I would rather have than Steve-o. I mean his confidence level, his understanding,” said Millett. “He did a great job last year, and he, like everybody else, is more experienced and raised his level of play up. It’s hard to get one by Steve-o. He’s just working hard and doing an outstanding job.”

Up Next

Middlesboro (3-0) will square off against Oneida Baptist Institute (3-0) in the 13th Region All A Classic on Tuesday.

Knox Central (0-3) will travel to Barbourville (0-2) on Sept. 8.

———

Middlesboro kicked off the season with back-to-back wins over Knox Central and Harlan County.

On Aug. 20, it came down to penalty kicks when the Jackets battled the Panthers in the season-opener. During regulation, Thaisan found TJ Patterson for a goal. Jabari Kyle finished with two goals during regulation as well.

The game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation. During the shootout, Arieta, Kyle and Joey Napier scored to give Middlesboro the victory.

On Aug. 23, the Jackets traveled to Harlan County in a rematch from the 50th District tournament. Middlesboro exited the field with a 4-3 victory.

Kyle, Arieta, and Sin (2) scored goals during the game. Sin led the team in assists as well with two. Patterson finished with one assist.