CHARMCO – Go back in time for a moment to the 2010 West Virginia high school football season. Midland Trail didn’t travel very far to find a rival on their schedule. Fayetteville, Meadow Bridge, Richwood, Mount Hope, Greenbrier West, and Valley were all on the Patriots’ slate. As the years passed, many of those schools fell victim to consolidation. The Mustangs were absorbed by Oak Hill in 2011 and Fayetteville followed them in 2019. Valley disappeared the same year, dispersing to Midland Trail, Oak Hill, or Riverside. Fast forward to 2023 and only Meadow Bridge and Greenbrier West are still playing the Patriots. With that said, even West and Trail took a four-year hiatus from 2012-15.
Don’t get me wrong, though, the Patriots have some new rivalries to occupy their time. There’s a nice round-robin of four teams in the Class A division of the Coalfield Conference that have created a quality football conglomerate. Greenbrier West, James Monroe, Summers County, and Midland Trail are all in the top 16 of the latest WVSSAC playoff ratings. All four stand a very good chance of participating in the first round of the playoffs when they start November 10. The Cavaliers have qualified for the playoffs the last four seasons, reaching the quarterfinal round three times. The Mavericks have reached the playoffs the last two seasons, coinciding with the return of head coach John Mustain. Mustain led the Mavericks to three playoff appearances in his first stint as head coach from 2013-17. James Monroe hit the quarters in 2021 and the Class A State championship game in 2022. Summers County has steadily improved under third-year head coach Josh Evans, going from a 2-win team in 2021 to 5 wins last year and 6 wins with a game to play this season. Side note, Evans was a Class A first team All-State offensive lineman at Fayetteville in 2005.
What’s on the line for the two teams this Friday in Charmco? The Cavaliers currently sit in the #2 spot of the WVSSAC ratings. If Greenbrier West wins, they stand a good chance of maintaining that spot. Down the road, that could translate into three home playoff games if the Cavaliers were fortunate enough to keep winning. Talk about a home field advantage! Midland Trail is currently the last team in the playoff field. A loss won’t necessarily knock them out, but it will put the Patriots in the unenviable position of a must-win in week eleven along with some scoreboard watching.
The Cavaliers have been an efficient machine so far under first-year head coach Kelly Vaughan. The offense is averaging 203.8 yards per game on the ground and 146 yards per game through the air. West has rushed for 26 touchdowns and passed for a single season school-record 21 scores. This offense is balanced and loaded with weapons. Senior running back Jake Pate has burst and elusiveness, and that has translated into 627 yards on the ground, 14 scores, and eight receptions for almost 200 yards and three more touchdowns. Isaac Agee is on the cusp on 300 yards rushing and has added 3 touchdowns rushing and three more receiving. Moses Gray has a solid three touchdowns on the ground, and you can never count out Ethan Holliday. Holliday has 3 receiving touchdowns and one on the ground.
Speaking of the passing game, a pair of receivers are having solid seasons with eight games in the books. Tucker Lilly leads the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions with a stat line of 21-315-6. Colton Dunbar has hauled in 13 receptions for 223 yards and five touchdowns. In addition to the two team leaders and the trio of Holliday, Agee, and Pate, Marcus Adkins has a touchdown catch and three more players have receptions on the season.
Cole Vandall is rewriting the West record books in what has truly been a breakout season for the senior signal caller. Vandall has set records for the most games throwing three touchdown passes, four, and it just so happens he’s done it in four consecutive games. Vandall has also set single season marks for the most touchdown passes at 20, average yards per game with 143.9, and completion percentage at 63%. Vandall is two completions away from setting the single season completion record, 14 completions away from the career completions mark, and 11 yards away from owing the career passing yardage record. With every touchdown pass he throws, he adds to his own record for career touchdown passes.
With all of that offense, would you believe it’s defense that rules the roost in Charmco? The defensive unit has allowed only 27 points and has collected five shutouts. The Cavaliers have held their opponents to a paltry 162 yards rushing on 230 carries. Cavalier opponents have scored just three rushing touchdowns. The secondary has held opposing quarterbacks to 542 yards passing and one touchdown. If turnovers are your thing, West has tallied eight interceptions and twelve fumble recoveries. The front seven has registered 11 sacks, three from the team-leader in tackles, Brandon Poticher. Two more sacks come the way of senior captain Jacob Whitt. Holliday has a whopping 15 tackles for loss followed by Vandall and Whitt with seven each. Pate leads the Cavaliers with three interceptions and Holliday has two to his credit.
Cavalier special teams units have done some remarkable work thus far in 2023. Hayden Ridgeway has been stellar with extra point attempts, nailing 40-44 PAT’s. Ridgeway is within distance of eclipsing his personal best of 43 that he set last year, and his percentage of kicks made is almost 91%. Of course, Ridgeway has handled the kickoff duties as well this season and has performed well. Look for more on Ridgeway’s shot at some Cavalier kicking records in the next few weeks. Agee, the Cavalier punter the last two seasons, is averaging a solid 33.4 yards per kick this season. Agee has become adept at booming the high ball that turns over and pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line.
The return game has been special this season. Holliday and Pate have a penchant for making plays in big moments and have delivered when the Cavaliers needed them most. Holliday had a 59-yard punt return touchdown last week at Sherman, and both returners had solid returns in the win over James Monroe.
Midland Trail is averaging 15.9 points per game while allowing 24.5. Those averages are skewed a little due to blowout losses to Nicholas County and James Monroe. The Patriots, however, opened the season hot out of the gates with three straight wins. Clay County and Tolsia both fell in close games before county rival Meadow Bridge was shut out in Hico. The euphoria of a 3-0 start would quickly give way to a grieved community.
In a tragic turn of events, Damon Mooney, a sophomore lineman for Midland Trail, lost his life in a vehicle accident while traveling to school on September 12. The loss hit hard in the Hico community, but Mooney’s teammates decided the best way to honor their brother was to keep playing football as scheduled.
The Patriots made the long trip to Wheeling to face Central Catholic, losing 47-6. The following week, Coalfield Conference foe Summers County handed the patriots a 16-6 defeat. Nicholas county dealt the Patriots a third-straight loss, and a bad one at that. The Grizzlies overpowered Midland Trail 38-0. Sitting at 3-3, Midland Trail rebounded to defeat Liberty Raleigh 41-14. James Monroe flexed some muscle in a 49-0 win over the Patriots two weeks ago to make their record 4-4 heading into their open week.
Who are the players from Midland Trail to watch for? Sophomore Jayden Roop leads the Patriots with 627 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Will McGraw will get some touches as well and has a couple of touchdowns to his credit. Preston Compton is Midland Trail’s leading receiver, hauling in 22 passes for 245 yards. Senior quarterback Jaden Gladwell has thrown for 437 yards but has only two scoring tosses to his credit to go against four interceptions.
The Cavaliers will honor their senior athletes before the game. The football contingent includes Marcus Adkins, Cole Vandall, Ethan Holliday, Moses Gray, Tucker Lilly, Hayden Ridgeway, Roy Loudermilk, Jake Pate, Jacob Nutter, Trent Parker, Jacob Whitt, Daron Vaughan, Cameron White, Ethan Hamons, Hunter Gwinn, Nathaniel Aldridge, Seth Ramsey, and Austin Baker. The four-year senior football players are Adkins, Vandall, Loudermilk, Parker, Nutter, Vaughan, Hamons, Whitt, Lilly and Baker.
The cheerleaders have designated the game to be their annual “pink out” for breast cancer awareness. Fans are encouraged to wear something pink as part of their game day apparel in recognition of this cause.
Kickoff is at 7 P.M. Radio coverage begins at 6:30 on Rock 95. A livestream of tonight’s game can be found on Facebook. Search the Midland Trail Patriots Sports Network. Lineup for Senior Night activities begins at 6:15 with the ceremony beginning at 6:30.
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