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Two Rivers Moving in The Opposite Direction…
A watershed is the geographical area where the flow of water literally is defined. Depending on which side of the watershed you are on, you could find the same rainstorm flowing in two opposite directions. Friday night Class 2A may have found a watershed moment between two of its top teams, Somerset and Beechwood, as the two faced off in a battle of Pre-Season Top 3 ranked teams.

Beechwood entered the year as the new kid on the block with all the popularity coming with them. The Tigers were the three-time reigning 1A Champs and from reputation alone was expected to perhaps be the top threat to challenge Pre-Season #1 Mayfield. Somerset was the trendy team that has only seen one trip to the State Finals in recent memory but returned enough of a core of talent and some promising underclassmen stardom to generate positive buzz. Following the Briarjumpers’ 46-14 win, there is no question which stream seems to be flowing toward the promised land.

Beechwood seemed to be moving the right direction when the opening kickoff was taken to the house by Parker Mason to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead. That lead would last deep into the First Quarter, then the flood gate opened. The turning point came on Somerset’s second scoring drive. The Briarjumpers were at the pinnacle of their second deep drive and seemingly had Beechwood on the ropes but faced a 4th and Goal at the 1. A fumble temporarily seemed to be just the luck the Tigers needed for second win, but instead Somerset would recover and punch it in to take a 13-7 lead. The very next Somerset possession Kade Grundy would take a short pass and turn it into a crippling 78-yard sprint for a 20-7 lead that Beechwood would never threaten.

The Briarjumpers would post nearly 500 total Offensive yards and would even get a kick return for a score of their own just to make sure it was clear they were the superior team in all disciplines. The Briarjumpers physically dominated the line of scrimmage and simply imposed their will in an impressive manner.

The ineffectiveness at the line of scrimmage is an ominous sign for Beechwood. The Tigers knew that outside of Cameron Hergott they would have a lot of youth at the skill positions entering the 2019 season, but traditionally it has been the Tigers’ consistent advantage up front that has allowed Beechwood to hold court against many if not all small schools. With an unrelenting schedule featuring 4A Corbin, 5A Covington Catholic, 6A Dixie Heights, and perennially solid Cincinnati Taft it is not within reason that an 0-6 start Is a legitimate possibility. To avoid this becoming a reality the Tigers will have to find some assistance for Hergott, specifically in the running game.

On the other side of the coin, Somerset is already 3-0 and with three Class 1A teams ahead of them, a 6-0 record entering District play is certainly the most likely scenario. Where Beechwood has lacked secondary options, the Briarjumpers has overflowed with riches: RB Alex Miller has been superb and the 1-2 punch of Grundy and Jayden Gilmore at receiver has been unrelenting on opposing Defenses.

French Renaissance In Middlesboro, Kentucky?

Larry French might not be on the Mount Rushmore of Kentucky Coaching Legends, but his Hall of Fame career is certainly one that the vast majority of coaches in the Commonwealth wish they had.

French has a proven track record of taking programs that are trending downward and revitalizing them. In his time he has taken Meade County and Boyle County to the State Finals, with Boyle winning two titles. He has surpassed the 300-win mark and is among the Top 10 coaches for All-Time victories in the State, and is currently 4th among active coaches. French left Southwestern after bringing the Warriors to a consistent Regional Final and State Semi-Finalist contender level in a somewhat abrupt and surprising move, choosing to go to Middlesboro. The Yellowjackets, a once feared small-school program, were 1-10 in 2018, and entered the season with a 5-39 record since the start of the 2015 season.

Middlesboro collected their first win over a ranked Non-District opponent in a lengthy amount of time by outlasting Lynn Camp 28-27 in Overtime. With the victory, the Yellowjackets have already doubled their win total from 2018 and seem poised to match to finish the year with more than the five wins mentioned above.

Middlesboro is still a long way away from the heights of Kenny Roark's glory days, but French certainly has changed the trajectory of the program and has the entire team believing. It also doesn't hurt having an Athlete like Jabari Kyle. The Senior has rushed for 496 yards and 10 TD's, he has also added 191 receiving yards and a pair of scores as well. The performance of Kyle also underlies another significance to having French. Kyle did not play last year at Middlesboro as he was focusing on basketball, the ability of French to look within his own hallways to maximize talent on his roster is certainly going to be vital to turning the ship around.

So what does the future hold for Middlesboro? Middlesboro has winnable games against Harlan and Pineville coming up before huge showdowns with Breathitt County and Leslie County. The new alignment has moved Middlesboro out of their previous gauntlet of a District, but they will have their playoff ceiling quickly defined with the two top teams awaiting. If Middlesboro can somehow emerge as one of the Top 2 teams, they have a strong chance to gain further momentum with three more winnable games to close out the regular season.

Once again, this might not be the year the Jackets sting the East, but if Coach French's past history is any indication that day may be coming.

Quick Hitters:

- Newport makes their debut in the Bluegrasspreps' Top 10 rankings on the heels of a 42-0 beat down of Carroll County. The Wildcats have a definite chance at being 5-0 heading into a rivalry game September 27th against Newport Central Catholic. Kaleal Davis has been superb early in the season.

- The most entertaining game of the week went to Washington County and Kentucky Country Day. The 1A Bearcats defeated Washington County 41-39 after the Commanders fumbled in the final seconds in a game with over 900 yards of total Offense. The Notebook highlighted Jatavian Churchill last week and he continued his jaw dropping performances with 359 total yards and accounted for three TD's on the ground. Things do not get easier for the Commanders with a very stout 3A Bardstown up next.

- Dearious Smith hauled in a ridiculous 12 catches for 243 yards in LCA's 47-37 win over Cincinnati Hills Christian. Smith is having a breakout year and will need to show up again for the Eagles against 6A Madison Central. Another WR having an impressive early season is Lloyd Memorial's Treshawn Cody. Cody had a key TD reception in Lloyd's 22-14 win over Boone County.

- Murray's DL Sebastian Lawrence is off to a great start. He had a monster game in the Tigers' 58-7 win over Calloway County with 9 solo tackles, 5 TFL, and 3 sacks. He added a forced fumble for good measure. The Tigers will take on a veteran 3A Union County in a game that they will want for RPI rating purposes.