By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Middle combined a backfield full of weapons and a stingy defense to roll to a 36-6 win over Corbin for the eighth grade conference championship Monday. Four different players scored touchdowns for the Jaguars as they extended the school’s first unbeaten season.
“The players made the plays tonight. It wasn’t anything the coaches did. The kids played hard,” North Middle coach Dusty Carloftis said.
North Middle jumped on top 14-0 before Corbin scored its only touchdown. The Jaguars then reeled off 22 unanswered points.
“I sure was nervous. At the beginning I didn’t know, but I guess it ended up looking easier,” Carloftis said.
The first North Laurel touchdown came on a 70-yard punt return by Jose Rodriguez. The ball bounced several times before Rodriguez scooped it up and found an open lane. It was the start of a big night for Rodriguez.
“Every game it seems like we have a different kid that makes a couple of touchdowns and another one may not score any, but that’s not the point of this bunch. They are so unselfish,” Carloftis said. “They play hard and they play for each other.”
North Middle would get the ball back right away when coach Harold Robinson called an onside kick.
“I thought at that time it would be the ideal thing to do because I didn’t think they would be expecting it,” Robinson said.
Rodriguez recovered the kick and then busted loose on a 25-yard run to bring first –and-goal from the 5-yard line. The Redhounds defense would hold, stopping the Jaguars on the 1-yard line.
It was too deep of a hole for Corbin to drive against the North Laurel defense.
“The hitting is what really impressed me and making tackles in open space even though the field conditions weren’t great,” Carloftis said. “The defense played great. You can’t ask them to play better.”
When the Jaguars got the ball back it didn’t take long for them to strike again. Cole McWhorter broke a tackle just past the line of scrimmage and then won a footrace for a 65-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
Two long completions from Corbin quarterback Caleb Mitchell set up his 11-yard bootleg touchdown that cut the lead to 14-6.
“(Mitchell) was a big concern. We were just hoping we wouldn’t give him all day to throw it,” Carloftis said.
The Jaguars pushed back down the field with Rodriguez again claiming big chunks of yardage. Matthew Sizemore then broke a 30-yard run down the right sideline for a 20-6 lead.
“Give Corbin credit. They kept fighting, but once we got on them I think we were even more determined to finish the deal,” Carloftis said.
The Jaguars would create their own big break when Mitchell completed a pass to Michael Scott, who appeared headed for a touchdown. Nick Broughton had actually tipped the pass initially and was then able to run down Scott near the goal line. Broughton knocked the ball out of Scott’s hand and through the end zone for a touchdown.
“What happened there is that kid did not quit. He kept on,” Robinson said.
Early in the third quarter a North Middle drive seemed to stall when they were dropped for two straight losses. Those losses were erased by a 70-yard touchdown run by Sizemore that included a full spin near the sideline to shake a tackler.
Justin Moore tacked on the final touchdown with a 30-yard touchdown run with 2:11 to play.
“Everybody contributed. I’m talking linemen too. It was a total team effort,” Carloftis said.
North Middle will open play Saturday in the state tournament. The Jaguars host the winner between McCreary Central and Whitley County at noon.
“We’ll take it one game at a time. That’s all we can do. That’s all we’ve done all year long,” Carloftis said.