Middlesboro walked away with a victory over the Leslie County Eagles Friday night, 44-28. The win advances the Yellow Jackets to the second round of the Class 2Aplayoffs.
The Eagles faced a 32-7 deficit in the second half before climbing back within 10 points of the Jackets but could not pull off the upset.
“We just didn’t play our best game,” said Middlesboro head coach Randy Fraizer. “We started out fine. I think the score got up there…and then we just started coasting.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the rushing game worked for Middlesboro. Ryan Pittman led the team in with 123 yards on 10 carries before leaving with an ankle injury. Seth Barton ran the ball for 26 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown, while Major Edwards rushed for 47 yards on 10 carries.
Donnie Foister went 10 for 16 through the air for 208 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those receiving touchdowns went to Jake Brock, who also returned an interception for a score.
“He’s (Brock) electrifying when he gets the ball in his hands,” said Fraizer. “Jake’s a good football player.”
Fraizer also complimented Edwards for doing a good job running the ball when Pittman went out of the game.
On defense, Middlesboro gave up 21 points in the second half. Eagle quarterback Kevin Whitaker threw 14 completions on 34 attempts for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
Aaron Clark led Leslie in rushing with 70 yards on 11 attempts. Whitaker ran the ball nine times for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
Fraizer believes injures contributed to the defensive effort. Several players were hurt over the course of the game including Pittman, Cole Fraizer and Barton.
“We have to get better injury wise and we’ve got to play better defense,” said Fraizer.
The Yellow Jackets put the first points on the board with 6:28 remaining in the first quarter. After a couple of big plays from Pittman, Barton and Foister, Middlesboro found themselves on the Leslie County 5-yard-line. Barton was able to punch the ball into the end zone on a 5-yard run giving Middlesboro a 7-0 lead.
Two drives later, the Eagles were able to make their way into Yellow Jacket territory. Leslie County marched down to the Middlesboro 3-yard-line, but a false start backed the Eagles up and they turned the ball over on downs.
After both teams exchanged possessions a couple times, Middlesboro would score again with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter. A 19-yard run by Pittman put the Yellow Jackets in a first-and-10 from the Leslie County 30-yard-line. Two plays later, Foister found Brock on a 28-yard touchdown pass, increasing Middlesboro’s lead to 14.
The Eagles answered on their next possession when Clark broke free for a 50-yard run, placing the Eagles in Yellow Jacket territory. Whitaker would find Stefan Lewis on a 14 yard touchdown pass with 41 seconds remaining in the half to bring Leslie County within seven.
With only seconds remaining on the clock, Middlesboro drove the ball inside Eagle territory. With no time left on the clock, Foister hooked up with Brock on a 37-yard touchdown pass. That score along with Tanner Hoskins’ third extra point on the game gave the Yellow Jackets a 21-7 halftime lead.
Leslie County forced Middlesboro to punt the ball on the opening possession of the third quarter, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Yellow Jackets a first down. Foister would find Austin Poindexter on a 40-yard pass to set up a Hoskins field goal with 7:29 remaining in the third quarter, increasing the score to 24-7.
Two possessions later, the Eagles would find themselves in scoring position. Whitaker hit Josh Bray for 20 yards to advance Leslie County into Middlesboro territory. A pass interference penalty and a Clark run got the Eagles in the red zone.
Brock came up with an interception and took it 83 yards for the touchdown. Barton ran in the conversion, giving Middlesboro a 32-7 led over Leslie County with 2:41 remaining in the quarter.
Lewis brougth the ensuing kick off back over 50 yards to the Middlesboro 14-yard-line. The return set up a 2-yard touchdown plunge from Whitaker with a little over a minute remaining in the third quarter, narrowing the score to 32-13.
On the first play of the next drive, Foister fumbled the ball and Leslie County’s Peyton Pugh recovered. After driving the ball down to the Yellow Jacket 25-yard-line, Whitaker connected with Jared Feltner on a 16-yard pass. Two plays later, Whitaker threw the ball to Blake Asher for the touchdown with 9:29 remaining in the game.
The touchdown brought the Eagles within 11 points.
Middlesboro took only four plays to answer. On second-and-14, Foister hit Poindexter for a 45-yard touchdown reception with a little under eight minutes remaining in the game. The score gave the Yellow Jackets a 38-21 lead.
The Eagles would score their final points on the following drive. Whitaker started it by gaining 27 yards on a quarterback draw down to the Jacket 25-yard-line. A pass interference penalty gave Leslie a first down at the 13.
Whitaker found a hole in the defense and ran the ball 13 yards for a touchdown with 6:44 remaining in the game. The score brought the Eagles within 10 points.
Middlesboro sealed the win with a 12-play drive. Foister capped it with a 10-yard pass to Barton for a touchdown, bringing the final score to 44-28 in favor of the Yellow Jackets.
Middlesboro will host Somerset next Friday in the second round of the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets lost to the Briar Jumpers two weeks ago, 35-19.
“Somerset, in my opinion, is one of the best teams in the region,” said Fraizer. “We’ve got to play a heck of a lot better than we played tonight defensively to even stop them.”
Somerset defeated Betsy Layne on Friday, 29-20, to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
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M- Seth Barton 4 run (Tanner Hoskins kick)
M- Jake Brock 28 pass from Donnie Foister (Hoskins kick)
LC- Stefan Lewis 14 pass from Kevin Whitaker (kick good)
M- Brock 37 pass from Foister (Hoskins kick)
M- Hoskins FG
M- Brock 84 interception return (two-point conversion good)
LC- Whitaker 2 run (run fail)
LC- Blake Asher 9 pass from Whitaker (Clark pass from Whitaker)
M- Austin Poindexter 45 pass from Foister (kick fail)
LC- Whitaker 13 run (kick good)
M- Barton 10 pass from Foister (kick fail)