On Friday, two crosstown rivals will clash at Bradner Stadium when Pineville (1-1) travels to play Middlesboro (0-2). The Mountain Lions are looking to continue their winning ways after a 41-8 victory over Jackson County last week. The Yellow Jackets are still searching for their first victory of the season after losing 47-38 to Whitley County.
Last year, Middlesboro defeated Pineville, 43-0.
Middlesboro head coach Zach Massengill said that Pineville was a very fundamentally sound team. He also acknowledged the experience the Mountain Lions have.
“They do a great job,” said Massengill. “I know they played with a good Hazard football team, and then they took care of business against a Jackson County team that they should’ve taken care of business against.”
He said Mountain Lion head coach Bart Elam has his team playing very well, and the team has confidence.
“He’s got great skill kids. They do a good job up front,” said Massengill. “We got our work cut out for us again next week.”
With that said, Massengill said his kids are ready to “settle back in.”
“We played a 3A team and a 5A team, and we played them well. We went toe to toe with them for the most part,” said Massengill. “Hopefully that pays off for us this week.”
Elam referred to the match-up against Middlesboro as a “big game.”
“I don’t want to try and over hype it because honestly at the end of the day it’s a non-district game, and we’re still trying to get ready for district,” said Elam. “It’s still Middlesboro. Our kids want to beat Middlesboro just like Middlesboro wants to not be beat by Pineville.”
Elam said the pressure is on Middlesboro because they haven’t been beaten by Pineville in a long time.
“Our kids, on the flip side, they haven’t beat Middlesboro in a long time,” said Elam. “We’re going to be hyped up and ready to play. It’s a fun game. It don’t really mean a whole lot at the end of the day, but it does mean a whole lot.”
Two athletic quarterbacks will face off on Friday with Chase Elliott taking control of the huddle opposite of Tucker Woolum.
Both quarterbacks had decent games through the air last week. Elliott completed four of nine passes for 136 yards and one touchdown. Woolum went 8-11 for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Elliott had the better game on the ground between the two. He ran for 174 yards on 19 carries with three touchdowns against Whitley County. Woolum rushed for 20 yards on five carries.
Woolum, a three-year starter for Pineville, holds the experience advantage over Elliott, who started halfway through the season for Middlesboro last year.
Both teams have experienced and young players at the skill positions. Pineville has two senior running backs in Brad Fuson and Robbie Miller. Fuson ran for 34 yards on five attempts and two touchdowns. Miller only saw one carry for 9 yards.
In addition to the two veteran runners, the Mountain Lions have sophomore Lawrence Simpson. He got a chance to shine against Jackson with 83 yards on five attempts.
At the wide receiver position, Pineville also has a mixture of experience and youth. Will Adams was the feature receiver last week with 97 yards on four catches for one touchdown. Jalen Byrd caught one pass last week that resulted in 30 yards and a touchdown.
Josh Lawson and Nike Mason are two younger options for the Mountain Lions at the receiver position.
Middlesboro also has two senior backs in Logan Capps and Parker Evans. Capps had a breakout game last week with 129 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Evans added 8 yards on three attempts.
Two other backs that have seen action in the past two games are transfer Dylan Pratt and freshman Isiah Williams.
While the Yellow Jackets have depth and youth at the receiver position, Anthony Jackson has proved to be the go to guy over the past two weeks. Against Whitley, he had two receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. Pratt and Evans both had a reception for 17 and 7 yards, respectively.
The defense will prove to be the deciding factor for both teams in the game. The Mountain Lions allowed 144 yards rushing last week and no yards passing against Jackson. Adams had one interception, and Kevin Sexton had one fumble recover.
The Pineville defense was led in tackles by Joe Collett and Jacob Shackelford with 11 each. Other notable numbers on defense includes six tackles by both Phillip Bruner and Mason. Byrd and Luke Kelly both had five tackles a piece.
The Jacket defense struggled against the rushing attack of Whitley County. The team gave up 447 yards rushing. The majority of those yards came from Colonel quarterback Luke Woods.
Middlesboro also gave up 122 yards passing.
Capps was once again one of the leaders for the defense with nine tackles. Cody Hurst had seven tackles against Whitley. Ben Bowling had six tackles while Evans had five tackles.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN