Jackets play North Laurel in Appalachian Bowl

Published 1:08 pm Thursday, August 30, 2018

Middlesboro split their first two games of the year. After losing against Bell in the season-opener, they defeated Claiborne last week. Now, the Jackets hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Clay County to battle North Laurel in the Appalachian Bowl on Friday.

The game has a special start time of 6 p.m.

Based on KHSAA records, the last time Middlesboro met the Jaguars was in 1998. That year, the Jackets defeated North Laurel 52-0 on their march to a state championship.

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While no one knows what the implications of this match-up will be, it will give Middlesboro a chance to go on a two-game winning streak if they can pull off the victory.

Know the Jaguars

Fielding a massive roster, North Laurel had to replace some key players coming into this season. Almost every key skill position player from last year graduated. After going 9-3 — losing to Harlan County in the second round of the playoffs, the Jags lost all three of their leading rushers.

The three-headed monster in the backfield that was Matt Sizemore (1,063 yards, 17 touchdowns), Jose Rodriguez (1,059 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Cole McWhorter (825 yards, eight touchdowns) is no more with each one graduating.

McWhorter was the team’s quarterback and threw for 1,002 yards and 11 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

Each of the team’s three leading receivers — Dalton Smith, Nick Broughton and Sizemore — are also gone.

Defensively, the team lost their three leading tacklers in Devon Banaszak (126), Broughton (82) and Sizemore (78). Sizemore also led the team in interceptions last season with four.

This year, there is new blood in the lineup. The Jags have started the year off 1-1 after losing to South Laurel (30-8) in the opening game and defeating Prestonsburg (44-6) last week.

Hutton Shepherd is leading the team on the ground tallying 152 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries this season. Grant Woods has tallied 92 yards on 13 carries thus far, and Konnor Robinson has scored once on four carries.

Lining up behind center is Dalton Sizemore. The quarterback has completed only 36 percent of his passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. The lone touchdown of the year went to Quinton Houser (two catches, 20 yards).

On the defensive side of the ball, Storm Gambrell and Hayden Smith are leading the way. Both players have tallied 11 tackles across two games. Cody Hoskins has 10 tackles on the season.