For the first time in 26 years, Pineville defeated Middlesboro on Friday. The Mountain Lions outscored the Yellow Jackets 40-31.
“This one is so huge to us,” said Pineville head coach Bart Elam. “This game is a landmark win for our kids. They mark it on their calendar. They’re friends with those kids over on the other side, and they’ve heard it their whole life that Middlesboro is better than them. It’s not true anymore.”
Elam said he has a lot of respect for Middlesboro. He also said that Chase Elliott is a great athlete.
“Our offense just kept coming and kept coming, and our defense got stops when we needed it,” said Elam.”Our offensive line, they don’t get a lot of credit, but they did a great job. Offense and defensive line, they won the football game for us.”
A strong offense for Pineville lead the way. Tucker Woolum completed 10 of his 14 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. In addition to that, he was also the leading rusher with 154 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 24 attempts.
Lawrence Simpson also broke the century mark on the ground with 111 yards on 14 carries. Brad Fuson rounded out the Mountain Lions’ rushing attack with 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.
Nike Mason led Pineville’s receivers with 61 yards on seven receptions. Will Adams only caught one pass, but it was for 41 yards and a touchdown. Both Jalen Byrd and Josh Lawson hauled in 11 yards receiving.
“I’m just an old football coach. I don’t play the game. Those kids won the game, and it’s very special to them,” said Elam.
Defensive let downs plagued Middlesboro throughout the game. The Mountain Lions converted several third downs and scored a touchdown on fourth down during the game.
“We just have to get better defensively. That’s just the bottom line,” said Jacket head coach Zach Massengill. “We got to get tougher, and we have to grow up across the board.”
Penalties also had a negative impact on the Yellow Jackets.
“They were all untimely penalties,” said Massengill. “We’ve got them pinned in several times on third and longs or fourth and short, and we get an offsides or personal foul or something like that. We’ve got to be smarter than that. We’ve got to be better. We can’t afford stupid penalties because we’re not playing well enough defensively to be able to give those up.”
The Pineville defense contained the often dangerous Elliott for most of the game. He was held to 66 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts. The Mountain Lions had a harder time containing freshman Isiah Williams, who ran for 124 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Parker Evans contributed 74 yards and a touchdown to the Yellow Jacket rushing attack.
The Jackets couldn’t get anything going through the air either. Elliott went 2-16 for 12 yards. Dylan Pratt caught both passes from the quarterback.
Middlesboro started off strong on the opening possession of the game. After Owen McWilliams returned the kickoff to the Pineville 39, Evans marched forward an additional 7 yards to move the ball to the 32-yard line.
On the third play of the drive, Elliott found space off the edge and took the ball 32 yards for a touchdown. A Caleb Heck field goal gave the Jackets a 7-0 lead.
It wouldn’t take Pineville long to avenge the touchdown. The Mountain Lions marched down the field behind the legs of Fuson. An 8-yard pass to Mason took Pineville to the Jacket 38.
Six plays later, Woolum capped off the drive with a 2-yard scamper into the end zone. Byrd missed the extra point to leave Pineville trailing 7-6.
The Mountain Lion defense came up big on the ensuing Middlesboro drive. A 24-yard run from Williams took Middlesboro down to the Pineville 33. After moving the ball down to the 16, the Jackets encountered a fourth down. Elliott converted on a 1-yard sneak.
Pineville’s defense was able to hold Middlesboro to a 30-yard field goal early in the second quarter to increase the Jacket’s lead to 10-6.
The Mountain Lions would find the end zone again on their next possession. Simpson broke free for a 42-yard run five plays into the drive. The carry took Pineville down to the Middlesboro 7.
Four plays later, Woolum jumped over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown with 6:12 remaining in the half. The extra point gave the Mountain Lions a 13-10 lead.
Three straight incomplete passes from Elliott forced Middlesboro to punt the ball away. Pineville once again got the ball moving on their penultimate possession in the half.
The Mountain Lions got into Jacket territory on a play where Woolum was chased out of the pocket. The quarterback reversed field after breaking a tackle and connected with Lawson on an 11-yard completion.
Fuson capped the 10-play drive off with a 17-yard touchdown run. The Byrd PAT increased Pineville’s lead to 20-10 heading into halftime.
On the first possession of the second half, the Jacket defense forced a turnover after Mason dropped a pass behind the line of scrimmage. Pratt recovered the ball for Middlesboro.
It only took Middlesboro three plays to cut into the lead on their first possession of the second half. After reaching the Pineville 48, Evans broke free for a touchdown run with 9:10 remaining in the third. The extra point brought the score to 20-17 in favor of Pineville.
Woolum took control of the Mountain Lion offense on the next drive. He ran for 30 yards during the drive, which ended in a 17-yard touchdown run from the quarterback to increase the lead to 27-17 with 3:46 remaining in the quarter.
Another short drive for the Jackets resulted in a touchdown. Facing a short field, Williams broke free for a 30-yard touchdown to cut into the lead, 27-24, heading into the fourth quarter.
Pineville turned the ball over on downs at the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving Middlesboro a chance to take the lead. The Mountain Lion defense was able to contain the Jacket offense and forced them to punt the ball away.
Pineville took advantage of the stop. After being held to a third and 10, Woolum converted the third down with a 12-yard first down run. Four plays later, the Mountain Lions faced a fourth and 6 after a false start.
Woolum connected with Adams on the next play for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 4:09 remaining in the game. The missed extra point brought the score to 33-24.
Elliott kept hope alive on the next possession. A 15 and 33-yard run from Williams took the Jackets down to the 4-yard line. Elliott scored on the 4-yard keeper with 2:33 remaining. The extra point brought the score to 33-31.
It took Pineville one play to score on the ensuing possession. Woolum tucked the ball, hit the edge and ran 51 yards for the touchdown. The score increased the lead to 40-31.
An unsportsmanlike penalty against Pratt put Middlesboro out of reach on the Jacket’s next possession. After an incomplete pass, Williams ran for 6 yards. The penalty put Middlesboro in second and 22. Three straight incomplete passes ended the drive.
Pineville ran three more plays before claiming their first victory over the Jackets in 26 years, 40-31.
Middlesboro (0-3) will host South Laurel (0-3) in the Veterans Bowl on Friday. Pineville (2-1) will travel to Paris (3-0).
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN