PHOTO COURTESY FRANK ISAACS
Midland Trail coach Frank Isaacs talks to his team, including seniors Jasper Jones (20), Morgan Ferris (10), Cordell Lesher (44), Austin Isaacs (12) and Nathan Hanshew (4).
By Dave Morrison
HICO – Midland Trail coach Frank Isaacs knows exactly how it feels to get in a game as a freshman.
The excitement and nerves are rolled into one big ball of fear.
You can’t even drive yet and the guy across from you is shaving.
Isaacs acquitted himself nicely in that first game in the late 80s, getting a sack against Independence, though he jokes that he tripped and fell into the quarterback’s leg.
“Yep, I shot the gap because I was scared to death,” Isaacs said. “The center fell on the back of my legs and when I fell, my face-mask caught his heels running the option. First sack.”
Midland Trail senior fullback/linebacker Cordell Lesher can relate.
He was pegged as a starter as a freshman, one of four freshman to start under Isaacs, then in his first year as the Trail head coach.
“I was scared to go in there, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Lesher said recently. “You look around and you are playing varsity football. I didn’t know if I was ready. When I was a freshman I really didn’t understand football. You learn a lot real quick when you get out there on the field.”
Lesher one of the leaders of the Trail team, along with fellow four years starters Hunter Jones, Nathan Hanshew and Trevor Harrell.
The four are the cornerstones of a Midland Trail team that last year won a school-record 10 games and the program’s first playoff game.
This senior class has put together a record of 25-10 heading into the last half of their final season.
The Class A No. 6 Midland Trail team is well on its way to bettering the exploits of last year’s record-setting team at 5-0 through the first half.
“We have played football together so long we know each other pretty well,” Jones said. “There’s not a better bunch of guys to play football with, and it has gone by quickly.”
Several seniors have contributed to the success of the program as well, including his son Austin Isaacs, a two-year starter at quarterback, running back/safety Morgan Ferris, receiver tight end/linebacker Jasper Jones, defensive end Jacob Pridemore and receiver/corner Colin Dempsey.
Jones and Harrell are members of the unsung “Great Wall of Hico” offensive line. To understand just how good this offensive line has been, consider this: Along with the run game improving each year, they also blocked for the school’s all-time leading rusher Thomas Ferris. Despite Ferris graduating the team is ahead of last year’s numbers with 1,816 yards in five games, compared to 1,555 yards at the same point last year.
Nathan Hanshew is one of those guys doing the running, a dual threat who nearly quit football two years ago to concentrate on his other sports, baseball and basketball.
“Coming into my junior year I almost quit, but in the end I wanted to stick it out with these guy,” Hanshew said. “Looking back I would have been devastated if I didn’t play. I love being part of this.”
Hanshew has 283 yards rushing – one of five Patriot players with over 260 yards rushing (in five games) and a team-best 13 catches for 296 yards and a touchdown. That TD came on a diving catch going toward the goal post, against Richwood. It was one of the area’s top plays this season.
Playing together so long the quartet know each other well.
“It’s really about the chemistry we have together,” Harrell said. “When you play together as long as we have you know what the other guys are going to do. We’re confident this year and that is something that has really grown over the years.”
The team feels, to a man, it let one get away last year in a 6-0 loss to Summers County in the Class A quarterfinals. Playing at home, Trail never got going. It drove to the two-yard line as time was running out but a fumble ended the game.
Trail had not scored fewer than 21 points going into that game and that was in the opener. It never scored less than 28 after that.
Each one of Trail’s version of the Four Horsemen mentioned the team’s motto this season: Two More Yards.
All within the framework of getting better.
“My only goal is to make the team better,” said Lesher, who has 307 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He had four touchdowns last week in a win at Valley. “We came up a little short of where we wanted to go last season and that was tough. We are confident this season.”
Isaacs knows it will be hard to replace the four four-year starters.
He knows his senior four well and offered an anecdote about each one.
“I’ve been blessed to have some great players but also some great young men,” Isaacs said. “Hunter Jones is one of the best athletes on the team. You wouldn’t know it but he loves politics. Cordell Lesher would rather pray for you than hit you but he won’t shy away from it when the time comes either way. Football is not Trevor Harrell’s first love. He is a huge mamma’s boy and he is not afraid to show it. For Nathan Hanshew football is probably his third favorite spot and he almost quit two years ago. We are glad he didn’t.
“I’m really going to miss these guys when they are gone. They’ve been a joy and a blessing to be around.”
They’ve spent our years putting Midland Trail back on the football map as they were in the 80s and 90s. Mission accomplished. With one more chapter to write.