Senior Jabari Kyle ran for 395 and six touchdowns on Friday to lead the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets to a convincing 57-22 win over Leslie County in the first round of the playoffs.
While the Jackets needed overtime to pull out a 1-point win at Leslie during the regular season, Friday’s outcome was never in doubt.
Kyle had touchdown run of one and seven yards in the first quarter. Then 31 and 45 yards in the second as Middlesboro opened up a 28-0 lead and never really looked back.
“The first time we played them we played without Zach Tong, Jacob Heck and Cameron Hughett and that hurt us up front as far as running our offense. This time I felt like we did a pretty good job of blocking. Jay Tyler did a good job stalk blocking and crack blocking and our interior line blocked really well,” MHS coach Larry French said.
“I think for the most part our kids prepared pretty well and they focused on what we had to do to win. We had some breaks go our way and we scored quick. We played good defense in the first half and got the ball back for the offense. We were able to get Jabari loose several times. Caleb got loose, Riley got loose and we were able to put a lot of points on the board.”
Leslie returned the second half kick for a touchdown, but Kyle was back at after that.
He added TD runs of 75 and 94 yards in the second half. Caleb Bogonko and Riley Gent also had touchdown runs as the Jackets went on to win by 35.
“Defensively I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half pretty well. In the second half they had a couple of onside kicks and ran some duce plays back. We had an outside linebacker that didn’t stack and they got some yardage off of that, but overall I thought we played pretty good,” French added.
Thaisan Sin went 7 for 7 on extra points in the game.
Bogonko finished with 94 yards on six carries and Gent added 62 yards on four carries. Eric Helton ran 11 times for 44 yards.
Tyler Kelly and Tyler Sturgill led the Jackets in tackles with nine each while David Kyle added six stops and Craig Brock had five tackles to go along with an interception. Kyle also had an interception in the game.
Middlesboro’s turnaround has been remarkable in their first season under Coach French. They’ve gone from winning one or two games each of the last four seasons to 8-3 with their first playoff win since 2013.
“It’s a step in the right direction for this program,”French said. “We’ve still got a long way to go in the mental part of it and the physical part of it has got to get a lot better in order for us to get to where we’d like to be. We’ve got a lot of work to do, especially against a physical team like Breathitt County. It’s going to take one of those games where you don’t make any mistakes and then it still might not be good enough. We’re going to have to play extremely well in order to have a chance to win.”
The Jackets visit 11-0 Breathitt County on Friday. Those Bobcats beat Middlesboro 57-7 during the regular season.