MOORE HAVEN — It took all of about five seconds for a Seminole to make an impact in Moore Haven Middle School’s football game against LaBelle Middle School on Oct. 13. On the opening kickoff, Jaylen Baker sprinted straight ahead and made a thunderous solo tackle as he drilled the LaBelle ball carrier. Having delivered what turned out to be perhaps the hardest hit of the night, Baker set the early tone in Moore Haven’s 33-6 win.
Seminoles play a significant role for Moore Haven’s middle school squad. They comprise one-fourth of the entire 24-player roster. Jaylen and Hyatt Pearce are eighth-graders; Corey Jumper, David King, Deagan Osceola and Austin Thomas are sixth-graders.
“This is a well-disciplined team,” said Moore Haven coach Al Gary. “They are willing to learn. They ask questions. The team is young. We only have five eighth-graders. A majority of the team is sixth-graders.”
Five of the Seminoles attend Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School. Since PECS doesn’t have a football team, the kids are allowed to play for Moore Haven. In addition to special teams, Jaylen, one of the taller players on the field, made his impact felt elsewhere against LaBelle. As a linebacker, he made an interception in the fourth quarter and he stopped a two-point conversion attempt. Offensively, his first carry out of the backfield didn’t come until the third quarter, but the wait was worth it. Jaylen made a quick dash to his right and picked up 12 yards. He finished with 31 yards on four carries. He also provided the key outside block on a 15-yard touchdown run by teammate Artavistus Ware.
“Jaylen has been doing good,” Gary said. “Run, tough plays, critical yards, fourth-and-2, fourth-and-3 we give it to him. He’s an all-around good player. He’s got good speed, good hands. He’s also our punter, although we’ve only had to kick one game.”
Corey saw plenty of playing time on offense as a tight end. He and the rest of the line helped protect Moore Haven’s agile quarterbacks and opened holes for them to dart through.
“Corey is a very good blocker,” Gary said. “We can rely on him on the wide side of the field. Defense, he’s coming around. Overall, he’s going to be a good player.”
Gary said he’s seen vast growth from the other Seminoles, too, throughout the season. David, a safety, was involved in a few tackles and helped stifle LaBelle’s offense.
“He’s been our most improved player,” Gary said.
Hyatt saw action on special teams and a few plays on defense.
“First game out, he was a little timid, but as the season has gone forth, he’s been coming around,” Gary said. “He’s very knowledgeable. He’s very quick to ask questions to learn his position. He’s doing pretty good.”
Austin’s season was halted when he suffered an injury during practice in a collision with Jaylen.
“He’s a first-year player. He came out and he was starting to pick up everything, but unfortunately he got hurt in practice,” Gary said.
Gary said he’s also pleased with the progress of Deagan, who plays safety.
“He’s coming around,” Gary said.
Austin and Deagan did not play against LaBelle.
In addition to the win against LaBelle, Moore Haven notched earlier victories against Jupiter Christian and Glades Day.