David Leveridge – Columnist – Bluegrass Sports Nation.
Two of the best Garde School programs in our area matched up on Tuesday evening. The NorthFork Lumberjacks from Jackson, travelled to Hazard to take on the East Perry Miners in highly anticipated matchup. The first matchup of the evening was the 5th/6th Grade teams of each with the 3rd/4th Grade teams following.
Both programs feature some talented athletes that will, one day, be future High School stars. The Breathitt County Bobcats High School program has struggled this year, with a one win and five loss start to the season. The Perry County Central Commodore and Hazard Bulldog programs, are both on having excellent years. Perry County Central is currently undefeated with a 5 – 0 start. Hazard is coming off a KHSAA Class A runner up finish in 2016, and currently sits at 3 – 1. The future of those programs depend on the success and development of these young, and gifted athletes.
The future for football in Breathitt County looks bright. The present Lumberjacks look to continue to grow and develop as they make their way to the High School level. Current standouts such as Isaac “Wheels” Turner, Caden Bowling, Kory Combs, Brayden Barnett, John Carter Hollon, Kylan Combs and Bryson Johnson, will one day be Bobcats, and lead the program back to prominence. Having covered both the Hazard Bulldogs, and Perry County Central Commodores, this season, I have seen some impressive athletes, who will potentially play Football at the next level. Hazard has Pre-season Mr. Football candidate Corey Smith, prior to his season-ending knee injury, and Perry County has a pair of excellent running backs in Jayden Neace, and Jacob Woolum. All of these players learned the fundamentals in part from great coaches at the elementary level. A strong elementary feeder program is the backbone of building successful athletes at the High School level, and the both the Lumberjacks and Miners are providing that.
5th/6th LUMBERJACKS v. MINERS.
FINAL: MINERS 12 – LUMBERJACKS 0
The 5/6 Game was an excellent matchup as the Miners came in at 8 and 1 and the Lumberjacks were undefeated on the season. The game had the feel excitement of an old Breathitt-M.C. Napier rivalry game. From the opening series, fans for both sides cheered on their teams. Lumberjack mothers rang their cow bells and Miner fans were ready for action. From the kids lining up in formations, to running counters and the level of tackling skills, were really impressive.
On the first series of the game East Perry converted on a third down, but Lumberjacks Coach Chris Fudd Hays didn’t agree with the spot and argued the call with the Head referee Tim Caldwell. Coach Hays received two unsportsmanlike penalties, and was ejected from the game. The 30 yards in unsportsmanlike penalties, put the Miners in excellent field position, although the Miners did not score. On the Lumberjacks first possession, the Miners intercepted a pass and were back on offense. The Miners then drove down the field and aided by a big run by Derek Fields, and then hit pay dirt on a one yard keeper by Miner Quarterback Hayden Canady. The conversion was unsuccessful, and the Miners led 6-0 with 42.6 seconds remaining in the 1st QTR.
The rest of the First Half was a defensive struggle as the Lumberjacks attempted to get their running game going with runs by Isaac “Wheels” Turner and Kory Combs. The Lumberjacks had a hard time penetrating the bigger front line of East Perry. When the Miners were on offense they often ran several misdirection plays to convert for first downs. Turner showcased his versatility by playing both sides of the ball for the Lumberjacks and made several touchdown saving tackles. At the half, the score remained Miners 6 and Lumberjacks 0.
On the opening series of the second half, the Lumberjacks again attempted to get their ground game going. Turner has an excellent run in which he was almost tackled for a loss but would make a cut and make several Miner defenders miss and cross mid- field, but was tripped up by the last Miner defender. Later in the drive the Lumberjacks faced a third down and long, and lined up in the shotgun formation, Quarterback Dillan Stacy was sacked for a big loss. The third quarter ended with the score remaining East Perry Miner’s 6 Breathitt Lumberjacks 0.
East Perry began to wear down the Lumberjacks in the 4th Qtr. Miner running back Austin Riley had a long run over 20 yards. The Miners ultimately drove down the field and punched it in on a run by Phoenix Eddington to put the game out of reach. The loss was the Lumberjacks first of the season dropping them to 8-1 and the Miners improved to 9-1. The same teams are scheduled for a rematch on Saturday, October 14, 2017 in Jackson.
3rd/4th LUMBERJACKS v. MINERS.
FINAL: LUMBERJACKS 48 – MINERS 0
As close as the 5/6 game was, unfortunately the 3/4 game was not close. The Lumberjacks completely dominated the game. As impressed as I was with the fifth and sixth grade kids, I was in awe of the skills of the Lumberjacks in the third and fourth grade game. The younger Jacks are a very well coached team and many of the coaches are former stars at Breathitt County High School during the Bobcats dominance from the mid 1990’s through the first decade of this century. Former Breathitt County football legends includes Kenneth “Shorty” Combs, Josh Barnett, Chris Hollon, and Chris Hays all have kids playing for the 3/4 Lumberjacks. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the old saying goes, and is definitely true in watching the coach’s kids compete and execute. East Perry also has some good athletes, but watching the young Lumberjacks compete has to excite people in Breathitt County about the future of the program.
On the opening series of the game, Lumberjacks opened the scoring. John Carter Hollon took the half off and went off left tackle for a with a sixty-five yard touchdown run. The Lumberjacks converted the conversion for an early lead of 8-0. The Lumberjacks defense, consistently stopped the young Miners team at the line of scrimmage or for a loss. Brayden Barnett penetrated the offense and sacked the Miners QB or stopped the running back on several plays. The young man not only tackled the other kids, but displayed good fundamentals delivering several big hits on whoever was in his way. The Lumberjacks continued their dominant running game featuring John Carter Hollon, Kylan Combs, and Brayden Barnett with little resistance from the East Perry Miners. Barnett would score late in the first quarter with a 50 plus yard touchdown. The Lumber Jacks led the Miners 16-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Lumberjacks continued with two more long scores in the second quarter by Hollon and Kylan Combs. The Lumberjacks scored on four of the six offensive plays ran in the first half, making the score at the half 32-0 Lumberjacks.
The second half was the Lumberjacks score twice more on touchdowns by Combs and Jakoby Little, to set the final score and margin. Reiterating these kids are young, with most either being in the first or second year of playing organized football. The skills possessed by these kids, have a lot wondering exactly how good they can be once they reach the teenage years and compete at the High School level. The Kids are skilled beyond their years, and if they stay together the sky is the limit. The younger Lumberjacks are currently undefeated and have yet to give up a single point on the season. East Perry is a young Team and will only continue to get better. Being a fan of High School athletics has me excited about the future of the programs, and look forward to covering the athletes on the field for years to come.
I have enjoyed covering both games tonight, and it is exciting to see the bright future of both schools. Helping Brendon Miller and Ron Hamblin out with Bluegrass Sports Nation has given me some incredible opportunities that I could only dream about. One of the most enjoyable experiences has been helping cover and promote the athletes of Eastern Kentucky. Without the continuous coverage of several sports in Eastern Kentucky many student athletes would never get the opportunity to showcase their talents. Bluegrass Sports Nation has changed that concept, and attempts to give the best possible coverage of sports. Bluegrass Sports Nation strives for excellence, and continue to grow by the week with offering outstanding photography work from Brendon Miller, Larry Robinson and others. Coaches and athletes are able to share special moments of kids competing. Helping promote and expose the athletes of Eastern Kentucky, has been a game changer that has not been seen in the Mountains of our area before.