By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The North Middle eighth grade team opened state tournament play Saturday with a 42-12 win over Whitley County.
“It was another team victory. Offensive line, defensive line played well. The secondary played well. (Whitley County) didn’t complete a lot of passes. That’s what we were worried about,” North Middle coach Dusty Carloftis said. “I was pleased with everything actually. We missed a few tackles that we normally don’t miss, but it didn’t hurt us.”
Next the Jaguars face a familiar foe in Corbin. North Middle has two wins over Corbin, but at this point Carloftis doesn’t expect familiarity to be a pro or con.
“It doesn’t matter. They are going to be ready to play. You just take what comes,” he said.
With a win against Corbin, North Middle would move on to play for the region title and a spot in the state’s final eight.
North Middle controlled the matchup with Whitley County from the opening kickoff. Jose Rodriguez took the kick 70 yards for a touchdown.
Matthew Sizemore then recovered an onside kick. That would lead to a 3-yard score by Cole McWhorter, who also ran for the conversion. It was just 2:30 into the game and North Middle led 14-0.
The Colonels were able to move the ball at times and threatened on their first possession. A potential touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone.
“They moved the ball some. Like coach (Harold Robinson) said we bend, but we don’t break,” Carloftis said.
North Middle would face a second-and-long, but managed the first down with a 20-yard run by McWhorter. Then they let Sizemore carry them to the end zone, capped by a touchdown run from less than a yard. Justin Moore added the conversion for a 22-0 lead.
Whitley County turned the ball over on downs with the Jaguars again striking quickly. A 3-yard run by McWhorter made it a 28-0 lead at halftime.
The Colonels would get on the scoreboard early in the second half with a 21-yard run by Dawson Swain to make it 28-6. The Jaguars got those points back on a 52-yard tackle-shaking run by Rodriguez. Moore ran for the conversion and a 34-6 lead.
With 3:11 to play, Michael Barnhill made it 42-6 with a 2-yard run.
The Colonels would find the end zone again with 1:34 to play on a 70-yard halfback pass from Corey Johnson to Cameron Rose.
“It’s hard to enjoy this win. We’ll enjoy it for a few minutes and then start working on Corbin,” Carloftis said.