By Dave Morrison
HICO – If you aren’t from there, or at least from Fayette County, chances are you have never heard of Chimney Corner, Turkey Creek Road, Loops Road, Miller Ridge, Ames Heights, Smales Branch.
Let Frank Isaacs tell you about the area he calls home.
“The kids here have been brought up by blue collar workers living from paycheck to paycheck,” Isaacs said. “They’ve had to work hard for everything they have.”
If you aren’t from there, you might not know it is from some of those outposts where MidlandTrail gets its football players.
It’s not unlike a lot of places in West Virginia.
But this year there is a distinct difference.
Midland Trail has it’s first 10-0 season. There have been close calls in the 80s and early 90s, but in those days Fayette County teams were ruling the small school football circuit.
Meadow Bridge got its state title. Mount Hope gots its state title. Fayetteville got its state title.
But not Midland Trail, even through they stood toe to toe with their county brethren on those football Friday’s of yesteryear.
Chimney Corner, Turkey Creek, Loops Road, Miller Ridge, Ames Heights, Smales Branch have something to be proud of now. They haven’t completed a title run. It’s just starting, but they do have a 10-0 season.
In its storied history it’s never happened at Trail. It did at Ansted, which had held the record for consecutive wins with 37, recently broken by Martinsburg, led by a southern guy, Dave Walker, from the equally small outpost of Pineville.
Back then guys like Tommy Pridemore were roaming the sidelines. Pridemore went on the WVU, the NFL and once intercepted Hall of Farmer Joe Montana and returned it 100 yards for a score.
In some ways, things have remained the same in the Ansted, Nuttall and Hico areas.
The kids are the same.
“These kids have taken that (blue collar work ethic of their parents and relatives) to the football field and the are dang proud of it,” Isaacs said. “They deserve to have their story told.”
Isaacs remembers the beginning, when he was at Ansted Middle and talking to his players, guys who are seniors now.
“These kids played little league football together and at the time they were watching Midland Trail lose game after game,” Isaacs said. “They had very little sixth grade year at Ansted Middle School. When I got to Ansted Middle we had to change the culture.”
In those days the talent pool was watered down, which in turn led to losing which in turn led to not getting in the weight room which led to a continued losing trend. Losing breeds losing as winning breeds winning and in those days the Patriots were setting losing standards and 0-10 was more likely than 10-0.
“It was really no one’s fault,” Isaacs said. “At this level it happens sometimes. I remember standing in front of the of those guys and telling them that if they listened to what we said and what we taught them, they would eventually start walking the halls of their school with their heads held high and their chest stuck out proud of their hard work and commitment.
Four years ago Isaacs was at Trail, ushering in these same youngsters. Well, Rome, and Trail football, was not built over night.
The first team was 6-4 in 2015. But the team took a step back going 5-5 in 2016.
Last year it all came together in a 9-1 regular season, but a somewhat inexplicable 6-0 second-round loss to Summers County, which had played some stellar defense coming into that game ended the year at 10-2.
They had the ball at the two yard line and a fumble ended it there.
The team’s motto coming in was “2 more yards.”
That set in motion this season’s perfection.
One by one they knocked off the teams on the schedule. Independence (22-6). Greenbrier West (36-16). Meadow Bridge (40-6), Richwood (44-8). Valley (41-8). Westside (26-14). Liberty (40-8). Fayetteville (26-10). Oak Hill (26-20). Roane County (25-0).
Four-plus decades of waiting and Trail is 10-0. And ranked No. 2 in CLass A, meaning they can play in Hico if they can continue winning.
The postseason is the next step, with Tucker County stepping up to take a shot at Trail..
Isaacs is frankly proud of the 10-0 mark because it doesn’t happen every year. Or every decade.
“These kids committed themselves and worked the last six years in the weight room, in the community and in the classroom. They will go down in history as one of the best classes in the history of Midland Trail High School.’
It’s not lost on those seniors, like running back-defensive back Nathan Hanshew.
“It’s an honor,” Hanshew said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team or coaching staff to experience it with. We all push each other on a daily basis and have truly discovered what it’s like to form a brotherhood.”
Another running back, Cordell Lesher, a defensive standout too, agreed.
“It feels great knowing that hard work pays off,” Lesher said. “The program struggled at first coming in but over time the coaches pushed us to our limits and helped us get stronger and grow closer as a team to get to this level of success we are experiencing now.’’
Trevor Harrell, a four-year leader of the Great Wall of Hico offensive line, said there is still work to be done.
“It feels great to be 10-0 because all the hard work we have put in the weight room over the years is paying off,” Harrell said. “Being the only 10-0 team in Trail history is a great honor but the season is not over and we still have a lot of work to get done.”
Austin Isaacs,son of the coach and 16 passing yards from being a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard passer is looking forward to the challenge of the postseason.
“Being part of the first 10-0 team is very special. No one can ever take that away from us,” Isaacs said. Hard work and dedication really paid off for us. Hopefully we can pull off something even more incredible up in Wheeling (in the Super Six).”
Isaacs is right, the special 10-0 season can’t be taken away.
Chimney Corner, Turkey Creek Road, Loops Road, Miller Ridge, Ames Heights, Smales Branch and all points in between your boys did it. They are 10-0.
And coach Isaacs was a man of his word.
“I believe they can stick their chest out a little and hold their heads high now.”
Yes they can.