Middlesboro avenged an opening season loss on Tuesday as the Yellow Jackets defeated Knox Central, 2-0.
“It felt good,” said Middlesboro head coach Tim Millett. “The kids were really fired up. We had a lot of carry over from the Whitley County game.”
The victory improved the Jackets’ record to 3-2 on the season and put the team in third place in the 13th Region — behind Oneida Baptist Institute (7-2) and Corbin (5-1).
“We were intense, we were aggressive, we wanted to win, and we were focused,” said Millett about his team on Tuesday. “We’re maturing as a team with our understanding of how to play the game of soccer.”
The Jacket defense led the charge against the Panthers.
“The defense really stepped up this game. Our defense was as solid as they’ve been all year,” said Millett. “We were aggressive getting after the ball. Dylan Neal has done an outstanding job in goal all year.”
Neal, who completed his first shutout as a goalie, had 10 saves on the night.
Millett said that Neal, Joe Nagle and Stephen Vaughn are the foundation of the defense. The coach also praised first-year players Owen Collins, Joey Napier and Adam Smith.
“I’m just really pleased with their progress,” said Millett. “A lot of their understanding is on-the-job training.”
The coach said J-Quan Rayford and Marcus Peterson are doing a good job on the defensive end as well. According to him, Evan Brock contributes “big time” to the defense when they need that extra defensive push.
“Defense is equally if not more important to our success,” said Millett. “I’m really pleased with the progress we’re making on defense.”
The first goal of the game came 22 minutes into the first half when Caleb Heck scored on a corner kick. He added his second goal of the night 18 minutes into the second half following a cross from Will Nichols.
“We’ve been working on getting the ball into scoring position in front of the goal coming from the side,” said Millett.
The coach said the offense improved during this game. The team had multiple quality shots on goal against Knox Central. He said the team’s understanding of passing and balance on the offensive end of the field has progressed.
Middlesboro’s next outing comes against South Laurel (3-3) on Thursday.
“They (South Laurel) are traditionally a strong team,” said Millett. “We’re really looking forward to the challenge. Our confidence as a team is growing game by game, and we’re getting better each game. As a coach, that’s all you can ask of your players — to improve every time you’re on the field.”
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN