Coming off an open date right in the middle of a string of six straight road games, the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets head to West Liberty Friday night to take on Morgan County in the Sorghum Bowl.
Jacket coach Randy Frazier said his team spent much of the last two weeks just working on trying to get better while spending a little time each day getting ready for Friday’s game.
“We went back to the fundamentals but at the same time at the end of practice every day we would come back and work on some of the things that Morgan County does,” Frazier said. “They don’t change a whole lot, they’re going to run the football. They’re going to put five people in the hole and just wallow it up in there. It looks like the old Notre Dame box or something. I don’t know what it looks like but it’s double-tight, double-wing and they run it right at you.”
It’s the third straight year the teams have met and the series has taken on a bit of rivalry feel. In the 2010 Class 2A playoffs the Jackets beat the Cougars 47-8 and Morgan County took exception to Middlesboro’s continuing to pass the ball as Chase Roark tied a school record with six touchdown passes. Realignment put the Cougars in Class 3A the following season and in last year’s Sorghum Bowl two MHS players received quick ejections and the Jackets felt like they were the victims of some home town calls as Morgan County pulled out a 38-34 win.
This year’s Cougars are a confident bunch at 4-0 with big wins over Boyd County, Estill County, Pendleton County and South Floyd by a combined 182-42 so far this season.
“It’s a big week for them with the Sorghum Bowl and all the activities going on up there. They feel like they’re unstoppable,” Frazier said. “Any time you’re undefeated coming in it gives you that little extra. That’s what we’ve got to account for and we’ll have to go up there and play one of our best games.”
Morgan County has an experienced group of skill players that Middlesboro has seen the last two years. Junior wingback Kody Thornsberry leads the team with 690 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 65 carries. Seniors Jordan Whitt and Walker Crase have combined for another 545 yards and 11 TDs on the ground.
“They are (experienced) in the backfield. They’ve got some new players on the line, but they’re a good football team,” Frazier added. “They moved into the top ten in 3A, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Middlesboro comes in at 2-2, but with a renewed confidence after pulling out a 27-20 win at Harlan in their last game. The Jackets scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the final minute to rally late for that win. MHS rolled up 169 yards on 53 carries as they dominated time of possession and wore the Dragons down.
Sophomores Parker Uhl (24 carries for 73 yards) and Seth Barton (17-for-90, one touchdown and one two-point conversion) were the workhorses on the ground and quarterback Major Edwards completed 7-of-11 passes for 60 yards and touchdowns of 13 yards to Jake Brock and 20 yards for the game-winner to Barton. He also had a rushing touchdown in the game.
Frazier said it was the type of performance that can boost the team’s confidence heading into the second half of the season.
“It has to. We’ve got to be able to run the football, we can’t just sit there and throw every down. We’re very proud of the way our kids ran the ball (against Harlan). Our offensive line got a great surge,” he said.
This Friday Jackets may be without starting tackle Matt Schneider. Frazier said the line will have to have others to step up to have the same success against Morgan County.
“We don’t know (if the Cougars will be tougher to run on). They run the same defense as Harlan did, we just have to get up and go right after it,” he said.
Friday’s game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.