Middlesboro handles Harlan, 46-8.

Published 3:52 pm Friday, August 16, 2019

The Harlan Green Dragons’ 7th-8th grade football team traveled to Lee Majors Field on Thursday to take on the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets at Bradner’s Stadium.

After falling behind early in the game, Middlesboro scored 46 unanswered points to hand the Dragons a 46-8 defeat.

“We’re a very young team,” said Harlan assistant coach Justin Luttrell. “Up until about a week and a half ago, we only had about 13 kids. When school started back, we picked up five or six more. For some of these guys, it’s their first game playing. We’re growing and learning. Each week, we have gotten a little bit better, but we’ve just got a long way to go.”

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After the game, Middlesboro coach Charles Lambert praised both of his lines.

“This was a lineman’s game,” said Lambert. “I was just telling the guys in the locker room that both the offensive and defensive lines played fantastic this game. They’re the engines that make us go, and they played their rear-ends off. I’m very very proud of them.”

Harlan struck first on the scoreboard with a 30-yard run by quarterback Vincent Smith. Smith then converted the two-point attempt to give the Green Dragons an 8-0 lead.

The Yellow Jackets quickly answered with a 49-yard rushing touchdown NaShawn Brooks. The failed two-point attempt allowed Harlan to maintain a slim 8-6 lead with seven minutes remaining in the half.

Middlesboro added another touchdown to the board in the second quarter on a 69-yard pass from Cayden Grigsby to Riley Fostee, giving the Yellow Jackets a 12-8 lead. Grigsby hit Jack Yoakum with a pass in the front-right corner of the end zone for a successful two-point conversion to extend Middlesboro’s lead to 14-8 with just over four minutes remaining in the half.

Harlan stumbled on the ensuing possession, turning the ball over inside their own 15-yard line. However, Middlesboro gave the ball right back to the Green Dragons on the ensuing possession with a fumble of their own.

Harlan failed to capitalize on the takeaway, as Middlesboro forced a turnover on downs, regaining possession. Grigsby then hit Kamron Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown pass before converting the two-point attempt, extending the Middlesboro lead to 22-8 just before the half.

After forcing Harlan to another turnover on downs, Middlesboro fumbled the ball inside their own 30-yard line but was able to retain possession. On the ensuing play, Jeremiah Beck found the end zone for the Yellow Jackets, extending their lead to 30-8 after a successful two-point conversion.

Middlesboro added two more touchdowns to ice the game. One on a touchdown reception by Case Bayless and the final touchdown on a 20-yard rush by Beck to secure a 46-8 victory over Harlan.

“We try to keep them focused on getting better week in and week out,” said Luttrell. “They are showing a lot of growth and development at a great pace. With so few players on the team, conditioning plays a big part in the game. We just tell them, you’ve got to put in the work in practice, because odds are you’re going to have to play the whole game. We get a little winded near the ends of the games and don’t really have the bodies to substitute. We are going to continue to work hard every single day and get better.”

“We made a lot of mistakes in this game,” said Lambert. “We may have won, but we didn’t play perfect. We scored 46 points, and I told the guys that we haven’t even gotten started yet. Football is a mental game, as well as physical. I told them that we are nowhere near as good as we are going to be in two months. We’ve got a lot of potential with this team. They’ve just got to believe in themselves and understand that they’re going to get better every time they come out here.”