Greenup Middle knocked out defending KYMSFA Champion to get to the semis...Bobcats should expect a skilled and fired-up opponent Saturday!

Breathitt Middle School’s football team, 8th-grade, has a huge ballgame Saturday. It is aptly described as “huge” for several very apropos reasons. 

First, and I could always be wrong here, but I don’t believe Breathitt Middle has ever advanced this far in the KYMSFA (Kentucky Middle School Football Association) playoffs. There are four-teams standing (Owensboro Catholic, Belfry, Greenup, and Breathitt), and there will be a KYMSFA Champion crowned next weekend, at the Division I, II, III, and Seventh-grade levels. 

The Championship games and Semis used to be played over one-weekend. Some of you may be wondering why? Can’t tell you, but it was done that way when “yours truly” took his Hopkinsville Middle School team to this same game, in Division II, in 2016.  

These days, the teams who win Saturday will come back and play the Championship games the 21st of November. That is much preferable to the way it was once done. 

My Tigers lost a “thriller” 38-36 to eventual State Champion, TK Stone (Elizabethtown). The memory, even today, is still both a blessed and bittersweet one.

That HMS team was 12-1 and had many fine players who went on to become stars at the High School level. Listen to me very carefully, and this is an opinion but one I am imminently qualified to make. Breathitt Middle School would have beaten us, and we were a dropped pass near the end zone, as time expired, from winning it all in a larger division of play. 

William Long was a two-way player on that team in 2016. I have asked him and he concurs with my opinion.  

So do we believe BMS is about to be coronated in a week or so? Yes we do. Perhaps, we should just get that point out of the way. 

We believe Breathitt has to beat itself to come away from the next two weekends uncrowned. We don’t believe there is a team left which is good enough to beat the Bobcats, not in Division III, and maybe not in the two higher divisions either. 

What we know about the Greenup County Muskateers…

First up, this weekend is Greenup Middle School. Here is what we know of the Muskateers.

Greenup eliminated LCA, the reigning Division, KYMSFA Champions from a year ago, in the Regional Finals. It took a drive of the field, and a huge scamper on 3rd and 11 to get it done ultimately, but the Muskateers prevailed in dramatic fashion, 24-18, after besting Paris Middle School, 44-26, in the second round. Greenup, like Breathitt, had a bye to round two. 

We were very fortunate to get to interview LCA’s outstanding head football coach, Todd Darland. He told the us, “Like every team in Kentucky this year, there were tough obstacles to overcome to hold on to victory and advancement when we played Greenup. No excuses, we just didn’t get it done.” 

LCA had the football three times inside the 15-yard line of Greenup County in the Regional Championship game and came away without scoring on those three drives. LCA had come off quarantine and pretty much had to play the Muskateers “cold.” Coach Darland was still under quarantine during the game and wasn’t on the sideline for the matchup. Coach was in the parking lot trying to phone in plays to his sideline from his cell phone. 

Coach Darland calls his own plays. His absence from the sideline couldn’t have been very helpful in a game and atmosphere already supercharged with adrenaline and nerves. 

When the Muskateers are on offense…

Darland tells us, Breathitt should expect to see the Greenup offense align in a Wing-T formation out of which they mix in some Pro-style plays. They will run out of a full-house backfield similar to a wishbone set, sometimes, and they will run from a two-back set, splitting the backs either side of the QB, with an active wing generally in pre-snap motion. 

Greenup relies heavily on misdirection and the use of the wings to throw off the LB’s reads. They will toss to the wing in motion on the classic Wing-T, “Buck-Sweep” and when your second level gets flowing toward the sweep, they will fake the toss and give it back to an inside run in the classic, “Wing T,” inside counter.

We are told the Muskateers don’t throw it much. It is not that the QB, No. 2, can’t throw the ball as he is Eli Sammons’s little brother (we are told) and, like his brother, hangs a howitzer from off his throwing shoulder (Eli is on scholarship/playing QB for Marshall University’s ‘Thundering Herd’). It is just they really don't have the receivers to get down field and catch it.

The offensive line is undersized (as a whole) but active. They play with good technique and leverage. We are told they will "get after you."

The offense will try to beat you with No. 2’s feet, as he is the team’s marquee player. This is crucial, “IF IT’S A PIVOTAL PLAY IN THE BALL GAME, THE QB IS KEEPING IT!” They will either live or dye with No. 2.

When the Muskateers are on defense…

The Muskateers run a 4-4 base defense. This base is popular among teams at the middle school level of play and features four-down linemen and four linebackers crowding the line of scrimmage. It is designed to stop the run. 

The alignment can create some challenges for an offensive line in recognizing blocking assignments. It also can help the defense disguise and mixup its blitzes coming from the second level. Offensive linemen have to engage the first level defenders while remaining cognizant and ready to pick up second level heat.

The scheme limits the amount of time a team has to throw the football. It is an effective alignment against the run. It makes the short passing game risky.

The alignments being Greenup's base defensive formation tells us something about the teams Greenup is most accustomed to playing, regular season. Greenup is accustomed to playing teams who lean on the ground game over the passing game.

It is a sound and popular defensive formation. It has its drawbacks.

This type defense is susceptible to the vertical passing game. It requires young players to “read and react” to every play which creates advantages where young defenders make “bad reads” or (worse yet) get confused. Confused players, at the middle school level, turn into spectators. 

This alignment may be successfully attacked with misdirection and can result in various mismatches of which a play-caller can take particular advantage. This is especially true where your speedy receivers get matched up with LBers in coverage or when the offense works the vertical passing game against the alignment's single-high safety.  

Look for Breathitt to pound the defense with quit-hits inside and with its big running back off tackle. Should probably expect the Bobcats to work the vertical passing game too. 

Defensively, Breathitt should "spy" on the QB and make sure he is accounted for on every play. If I were coaching in this game, I would make sure somebody, besides No. 2, has to beat me.

We hope this little “Scouting Report” will help many of you enjoy the game Saturday and remember to catch the broadcast on KYMSFA’s Facebook page, unless you are attending. Go Bobcats.

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