In a battle of evenly matched middle school football teams, it was muscle that ultimately decided the outcome of the Jacksboro vs. LaFollette game Thursday night at Al Rotella Stadium.
Seventh grader Paul Courdle rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown and made seven tackles to lead the Eagles (1-5 district, 2-5 overall) to a 36-8 victory over the Owls (0-5 district, 1-5 overall).
The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, which surprised LaFollette coach Steve Rutherford.
“I wasn’t expecting Jacksboro to be quite so physical up front,” said the Owls’ coach.
“They got off the bus ready to play and were intent on winning the ball game.”
Courdle put the first points on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run in the last minute of the opening quarter. Andrew Evans scored the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Jacksboro lead.
A shaky two-minute stretch at the end of the first half proved to be LaFollette’s undoing. Running back Nick Bailey put the Eagles up 14-0 with a 5-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. He then intercepted a pass, while playing on defense, to set up another Jacksboro TD.
Evans scored from the 2-yard line with 26 seconds left, and Courdle ran for the two-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jordan Bruce recovered a fumble to set up yet another score. Jesse Sharp reeled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from seventh grade quarterback Kaine Peel, and the rout was on.
The Eagles scored three touchdowns in the final 1:40 of the first half to take a commanding 28-0 halftime lead.
Jacksboro coach Mike Miller credited his team’s brawn to weekly workouts with strength trainer Tim Zupancic, owner of the ABSolute Fitness gym.
“The kids have been focused. We had a real good week at practice,” said Miller.
“Three of our scores came from our seventh graders.
“We’ve kind of shot ourselves in the foot the last few weeks. In the Norris game, we had five turnovers. We’ve been playing fairly good defense, but turned the ball over too many times. You can’t turn the ball over and still win games.”
Sharp scored the last touchdown for the Eagles on a 26-yard run after taking a reverse handoff.
Peel tossed a pass to Bailey for the two-point conversion and a 36-0 lead with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter.
The Owls were able to avoid being shut out when Jordan Bunch ran for a 60-yard touchdown with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter. Chris Stone scored a two-point conversion for the final margin.
“I’d like to congratulate Jacksboro on their victory,” said Rutherford.
“They showed great sportsmanship and class. I’m proud of my kids for not giving up and for coming out and playing hard.”
Two LaFollette players — Lee Wilson and Kaleb Jarrett — suffered concussions and had to be taken to the hospital for evaluation by doctors. However, Rutherford said the players are doing fine and are expected to be back in the field soon.
The Eagles will host H.Y. Livesay tonight (Thurs.) for homecoming. The crowning of the new queen will take place at 6:30 p.m. immediately before kickoff.
LaFollette will hit the road for its final regular season game tonight (Thurs.) at Huntsville.
The East Tennessee Middle School Playoffs are scheduled to begin Oct. 17.