Northern Middle playing for a state title on Saturday

STEVE CORNELIUS | CJ

Northern Middle School football coach G.J. Wooldridge talks to his seventh-grade football players during a recent practice. The Maroons will play for the KYMSFA seven-grade state football title on Saturday at Taylor County.

With the score 40-6 displayed on the Northern Middle School football field scoreboard, the Northern Middle seventh-grade football team went about their business with their daily practice. But the junior Maroons had a state title on their mind for the future, and the 40-6 score on the board was to remind them of the past.

On Saturday, Nov. 21, the Northern Middle School seventh-grade football team will take on the Union Raiders in the Kentucky Middle School Football Association State Championship at Taylor County Middle School. Earlier in the season, the Maroons fell to Union by the score of 40-6.

Northern Middle School football coach G.J. Wooldridge, who is in his fourth season at the helm, wanted his team to remember the score from the last time they played Union.

"If you go back to that (last Union) game it was 14-0 with one minute left in the half," Wooldridge recalled. "We had a couple of fluke plays and gave up two touchdowns in one minute and then the wheels kind of fell off. But that loss has made out team work harder. Even right now, look out at the field - with practice over - they are still out there working with no coaches around."

Union, who is the defending KYMSFA seventh-grade state champions, will be a tough state finalist opponent for Northern, but the Maroons feel they are a different team than they were the last time they played the Raiders.

"The last time we played Union we had a lot of starters injured and they were not able to play in that game, and that hurt us a lot," stated tight end Cooper Mobley. "Plus we had a three-hour bus ride to Union and that messed with us too."

Coach Wooldridge also feels his team has improved since that loss to Union.

"This group here is all football players," Wooldridge vaunted. "They understand the moment and they understand the situation. They continue to work and get better every week. Yes, Union beat us earlier in the season, but I feel like we are a completely different team now and we have improved tremendously. We are really excited about this game on Saturday."

Northern has only lost two games this year, with one loss to Union and the other loss to Corbin. The Maroons avenged their loss to the Redhounds with a 20-16 win over Corbin in the second round of the KYMSFA State Tournament. Northern downed North Laurel 34-6 in the state semifinals, and Region 4 championship. Last weekend, Northern dominated Bowling Green 40-6 in the state semifinals.

"That win over Bowling Green was a really big game," stated Northern quarterback Boone Godby. "They thought they could come out and play with us, and we just ran the ball down their throat."

With not much information on the Bowling Green team, Wooldridge relied on his team's own strengths to win last weekend's state semifinal match-up.

"We didn't have a whole lot of film to prep for Bowling Green, so we just wanted to be the best version of ourselves," Wooldridge explained. "We just wanted to come out and see what happened. These guys answered the bell, and they did it early. In a big game like that, you couldn't ask for anything else."

The Maroons are hoping for another big performance on Saturday in an effort to capture the program's fifth KYMSFA state title and Coach Wooldridge's first title since taking over the program in 2017. Northern seventh graders won titles in 2010, 2011 and 2016. The Northern eighth graders won a state crown in 2011.

Beside's Northern's success at the state level, both Southern Middle and Meece Middle have been successful as well. Southern won eighth-grade state titles in 2010 and 2012, and won a seventh-grade title in 2011. Meece has won three eighth-grade titles - 2009, 2011, and 2018. Also, Southern Middle School coach Dwight Engle was inducted into the KYMSFA Hall of Fame in 2013.

The Northern Middle seven-grade football team is hoping to add to the local area's success in the KYMSFA State Championships.

"We are going to play our hardest and make sure we are focused and locked in during practice," stated lineman Brayan Ramirez. "And hopefully we can play a good football game on Saturday. I have had fun spending time with my teammates this year, and playing football with them."

The KYMSFA will host four state championship games on Saturday: 11 a.m.- 7th grade - Union vs Northern; 1:30 p.m. - 8th D3 - Greenup vs Belfry; 4 p.m. - 8th D1 - Elkhorn vs Bowling Green; and 6 p.m. - 8th D2 - South Oldham vs Corbin

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