Heading into the 2015 season, the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets will be looking to improve on a 5-5-1 season, which included a first round loss to Prestonsburg. Replacing some key contributors will be part their journey.
The team graduated 15 players during the spring with many of the students playing key roles for Middlesboro. Among those who graduated include skill players Jake Brock, Seth Barton, Major Edwards, Ryan Pittman, and Tanner Hoskins. The team also lost several linemen including Nick Shoffner, Leron Gregory, Scotty Brooks, Jared Hoskins, Matthew Schneider, and Brad and Nick King.
“We have a lot of experience to replace,” said head coach Zach Massengill. “With that comes a lot of youth replacement. Hopefully they will pick up the game speed pretty quick.”
The coach said there are several seniors that played last year, and he is pleased with the overall senior leadership. There are also some younger players helping lead as well.
“Chase Elliott is doing a good job both on and off the field,” said Massengill about the sophomore quarterback. “There are several kids that are trying to push each other and take leadership roles, and that’s exciting to see.”
To advance further in the playoffs this year, Massengill said the team will need to be ready to play come district time.
“Last year, I felt like we let one or two games get to us way too much that really didn’t have any bearing on our season,” said the coach. “We’ve got to really focus in, and we’ve got to be ready to play our best ball come week six when we start district play.”
In addition to that, Massengill said there is a lot more that goes into advancing in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to come to work every day, and we’ve got to get better each practice and each game,” said Massengill. “That’s going to take a lot of dedication from the guys.”
The coach said overall, he has been seeing that dedication from his team.
“They seem like they want to (win),” said Massengill. “They feel like they have a lot to prove. Hopefully, that mentality stays with us all year.”
Massengill said overall the team has been working hard during the summer. He said they have been learning every day.
“They’ve had a great attitude,” said the coach. “They’ve picked up everything we’ve thrown at them as far as offensively and defensively.”
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets are going to spread the ball out. In a previous interview, Massengill said the offense will look similar to the veer option out of the shotgun.
The running backs who will handle a good portion of the duties in the new scheme are Logan Capps and Parker Evans. Alcoa transfer Dylan Pratt will also see some time at the position.
The running backs have been doing a better job of seeing things. According to the coach, they have been studying film and working hard after practice.
“Hopefully that will pay off for us because they’re going to have to carry a little bit of a load for us,” said Massengill.
The Jackets bring a young receiving corps to the table this year as well. The roster currently has nine sophomores listed at the position. Massengill said the receivers will be young, but they also bring a lot of speed to the table.
Defensively, the coach said players are understanding their assignments and working hard.
“We need to be a little more physical, but other than that I’m pretty pleased with them overall,” said Massengill.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN