PINEVILLE — Middlesboro-Bell isn’t the only game in town tonight. Also taking Dudley Hilton Field on Log Mountain will be Pineville as they take on Williamsburg in their shortest road trip of the season. Cumberland Gap is also holding their home opener against District 2-AA opponent South Greene.
The Mountain Lions (1-1) and Yellow Jackets (2-0) both come into their game on a high. Williamsburg made a statement last Friday with a 36-0 rout of Harlan while Pineville had their way on the road at McCreary Central to the tune of 46-6.
Lion senior quarterback Jamie Roan had the hot hand last week, passing for 261 yard and five touchdowns. Reserve running back Jared Philpot also had a TD score, in addition to all the other Pineville skill players finding the end zone at least once. The Mountain Lion starters on defense pitched a shutout, and even after the Raiders scored late against the second and third teamers, Pineville only gave 173 total yards. Dalton Ledbetter led the Lions with eight tackles in the game.
The test this week will quite a bit stiffer as Williamsurg’s spread is clicking on all cylinders. Last week Dalton Sizemore completed 17-of-27 passes for 228 yards, including scoring passes to Corey Shelton of 38 and five yards. The Jackets also ran for 185 yards against Harlan.
“Williamsburg definitely presents a challenge. In my opinion they’re the fastest team in the City/County Bowl,” Lion coach Bart Elam said. “Now we’ve got some quick kids, too, and they’re disciplined kids. I told them the fastest player doesn’t win every time. We’ve got to make them make mistakes.”
He added that the key for the Pineville defense is to play smart football.
“We have to understand that we can’t play press coverage all the time. We’ve got to give them some cushion and make them got 8, 10 or 12 plays to score,” said Elam. “Even the best high school teams have trouble going 12 plays without making a mistake.”
When the Lions have the ball, though Roan has shown he’s capable of putting up big numbers, their best weapon just might be big running back Andrew Douglas powering behind an offensive line that has a size advantage on Williamsburg.
“You’d think so but they’re pretty good up front, too. They’re a good football team,” Elam said of the Jackets. “But I’ve been really pleased with the play of our o-line and d-line so far. We went up against another pretty good team in 5A North Laurel (in the season opener) and if we don’t turn the ball over then we’re right there with them.”
He added that taking care of the ball will be key again if the Lions are going to pull off the upset.
“We’ve got to start out with not hurting ourselves. We cannot have turnovers,” Elam said. “We’ve got to be able to score and then get them out of their comfort zone a little bit and see how the game plays out.”
The City/County Bowl opener is set to kick off at 6 p.m. with Middlesboro-Bell County as the nightcap.
Cumberland Gap vs. South Greene
The Panthers welcome the Rebels in the district opener for both teams.
Cumberland Gap is 2-0 while South Greene is 0-2, but CGHS coach Neal Pucciarelli says his team will have to contend with a deep group of skill players tonight.
“We’re going to have to shut their skill guys down. They’ve got a very good receiving corps, a nice running back and their quarterback is pretty good, too,” he said. “I anticipate that they’re going to throw it a lot. Offensively, we need to control the time of possession and establish a running game.”
The Panthers had their best effort in years running the ball in last week’s 54-13 romp at Union County. Quarterback Blake Franklin and running back Wesley Nance both had well over 100 yards as CG rolled up 300 yards on the ground and 500 total yards in the game.
In last year’s game at South Greene, Franklin was out with a thumb injury and Nance left the game with a scary neck injury as the Rebels won 45-20.
“That was the first week we didn’t have Blake and turnovers costs us a lot,” Pucciarelli said. “We moved the ball pretty well against them but we lost Wesley and kind of got discombobulated and they blew it open in the second half.”
In addition to the home opener, tonight is also Powell Valley Night at Cumberland Gap. Former players from Powell Valley are invited to attend the game where they will gather in the home end zone and be recognized at midfield before kick off.
Cumberland Gap has the chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 2008 and will also be looking to get a leg up in the district.
“There are six teams in our region and after this week three of them will be 1-0 and three will be 0-1. We want to be one of the 1-0 teams because it’s important to get off to a fast start. As long as we win, we control our own destiny,” Pucciarelli said. “There’s a lot on the line for us as far as establishing momentum. I’ve been pleased with how we’ve practiced, we just need to improve our concentration and our focus if we want to be a championship-caliber team.”
Kickoff at Cumberland Gap is set for 7:30 p.m.