The Middlesboro Yellow Jackets got a sensational performance from senior keeper Blake Davis Thursday. He registered 19 saves, at least four of which were spectacular, as the Jackets played Whitley County to a 0-0 draw.
“I thought we played well. We held our form, we held our positioning on the field,” coach Mike Collett said. “We played them earlier in the year and they beat us 3-2. I’m proud of how we played.”
The Colonels came in on a three match winning streak, but it was Middlesboro pressing the attack in the early going. Senior forward Jordan Wilson won a ball near midfield and pushed hard toward the left corner. He sent a cross to Jaydee Hart, but the Whitley keeper was there for the save.
Wilson and Hart both had other shots on goal in the opening 15 minutes, but they weren’t able to convert.
Whitley County controlled possession for the majority of the rest of the half. But when Bryce Scott and the rest of the Middlesboro defense weren’t deflecting away their shots, Davis was there for the save. He made 11 saves in the first half, though most were of the routine variety.
The Jackets closed with a fury as Hart sent a cross that was nearly headed in by Josh White. Just minutes before halftime Hart got behind the Whitley defense and shot at a rebound goal, but he was running at nearly full speed and wasn’t able to get a solid hit on the ball and it sailed out of bounds.
In the second half, as both teams started playing with more urgency to score, Davis rose to the occasion. He made a diving stab to turn away a Jordan Brooks’ shot from about 25 feet away with about 26 minutes to play. Minutes later he secured a hard one-timer from Hunter Keltner to again keep the score knotted at 0-0.
Whitley had four corner kicks in the second half, but every time the Jackets turned them away. One of Davis’ best moments came when the Colonels sent a lob into the box and he went up over a pair of Whitley attackers and punched the ball away.
“Blake was huge tonight. Everything that came in there, Blake got it. He was diving here, jumping there, he was everywhere,” Collett said of his keeper.
The Jacket offense didn’t get rolling until late in the second half. They only had two or three scoring chances until the final 10 minutes. Field position turned after a Whitley player was called for a hand ball and Middlesboro brought their defenders up to midfield to go on the attack.
Wilson took a shot on a free kick from about 50 feet out, but again the Whitley keeper was there. Scott later won a ball and sent a long outlet pass to Hart. His shot again sailed just wide left and the score remained 0-0.
“Bryce Scott has done that all year long. He’s a solid defender and offensively when we need it he comes up with big plays,” Collett added. “He saves us a lot.”
Scott set up another late scoring chance with an outlet that Wilson ran down along the left side. He got off a clean shot, but it went high and to the right of the goal.
Davis turned away two more Colonel chances late and the match ended in a draw.
“I’m terribly proud to be coaching here at Middlesboro. I feel like we’re making moves in a positive direction and a lot of that goes to the seniors. They’re leading team well,” Collett said.
Middlesboro (2-4-2) plays at Letcher Central on Tuesday and will be back at home next Thursday against Oneida Baptist. Whitley County (4-5-2) hosts Taylor County Saturday.