New football alignments will help Bobcats, Jackets

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The countdown to football season is upon us. Within the next three weeks, local high school teams will take the field on a quest to reach the ultimate prize — a state championship.

While this season has yet to begin, it’s hard to say some people aren’t looking a year into the future at what is coming down the road. This season, most teams (if not all) will have the same schedule as they did last year. Then, beginning in the 2019 season, everything will change.

Earlier in the year, KHSAA approved the new football alignment in each class. Both Middlesboro and Bell County will be among many teams that will square off against new foes while Pineville continues to compete against their regular district opponents.

The Yellow Jackets are one team that should be welcoming the changes coming in 2019. Since 2011, Middlesboro has had to deal three teams that are arguably among the top schools in 2A in Lexington Christian, Danville and Somerset.

During that stretch, the Jackets have managed to tally a 3-18 record with two wins coming in 2013 — when the team finished the regular season 9-3 before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by Somerset.

This upcoming season will be that last time Middlesboro has to worry about that gauntlet of teams as all three have been moved to District 4. They have been replaced by the likes of Breathitt County, Knott County Central, Leslie County and Morgan County.

While there is no such thing as an easy outing in high school football, the 2019 schedule is much more “favorable” than it has been over the past eight years.

The new alignment will also inject a sense of urgency among each team in the district with the idea of missing the playoffs a true possibility for anyone who finishes last in the district.

“I was looking at it and in the past seven years, we’re 3-22 in our district. That doesn’t matter who is coaching. That’s not good results,” said Middlesboro coach Zach Massengill in a previous article regarding the re-alignment. “Our district has been very dominating in 2A football. Danville has been to the past two state championship games, and LCA beat them one year. To get rid of those three teams is very beneficial for our district and our region.”

A chance for Bell County to return to prominence inside district play is also on the horizon when districts change in 2019. Two of their toughest opponents — Corbin and Casey County — will be either in another district (Casey) or in Class 4A (Corbin).

While Jackson County and McCreary Central remain in the District 5, the Bobcats will also play the likes of Estill County, Garrard County and Rockcastle County. Bell County has a history of winning against all of the aforementioned teams.

In 2015, the Bobcats defeated Estill 41-8 in the first round of the playoffs. The last meeting against Rockcastle County was in 2010 when Bell County defeated the Rockets 55-0.

The last time the Bobcats played Garrard County was in 2008 when they handed the Golden Lions a 50-6 defeat.

Of the teams in Bell’s 2019 district, only one had a winning record in 2017 — Rockcastle, who was competing in Class 4A and finished the year 8-4.