By Dave Morrison
HICO -Midland Trail’s Trevor Maichle seems like an unlikely pick for the Patriots player who would come up with the biggest play of the season. In fact, it was season-saving, undefeated season-saving and postseason run-saving as well.
Saving is exactly what the sophomore did in a 20-14 victory over Sherman last week in the Class A quarterfinals.
If you were looking for a hero at the moment, you might have figured it would be someone from Trail’s offense that has rushed for nearly 3,700 yards and has 4,744 yards of total offense.
Or you might have guessed it was one of many all-state caliber veteran stars of Trail’s defense that has forced 17 turnovers in the last four games alone. Pick a star, any star, whether it’s Hunter Jones and his 13 sacks, Cordell Lesher and his nearly 150 tackles, John Starks and his seven interceptions, Nathan Hanshew and his five interceptions, Morgan Ferris and his 90 tackles and four fumble recoveries or Jakob Pridemore and his nine sacks.
You would have been wrong.
When Maichle jumped a Sherman route and picked off J.T. Hensley’s pass and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown, it not only tied the game, it switched the momentum. It was the reason Trail was practicing on Thanksgiving.
It’s the reason that Trail will host Williamstown Friday night in the Class A semifinals at Greenbrier East at 7:30 p.m.
Early in the second half it looked like Sherman was driving for a score already up 14-8. A score would be devastating against a Patriots team which struggled to keep Hensley and the Sherman offense at bay in the first half.
“I knew we needed to make a play,” Maichle said. “We are not a defense that puts our head down. We can give up touchdown after touchdown and we aren’t going to put our head down. And somebody has made a play all season when we needed it.”
With Sherman at the Trail 10-yard line, it somebody would need to do so again.
As Sherman broke the huddle Maichle noticed a familiar look to the Tide formation.
“They had run the same play earlier in the game and they got me on it,” Maichle said of the screen. “I read where the receivers were lined up and the formation and I knew it was coming again.”
It was but this time Maichle was there. He picked the ball off and took off the other way. Such was his jump of the route, nobody was going to catch him. By the time Maichle reached the goal line, it was a good 20-25 yards before his teammates could join him for the celebration.
“It did seem like I was down there alone for a little while,” Maichle said before laughing at the memory.
“There is no doubt that was a momentum-changing play, a game-changing play,” Trail coach Frank Isaacs said.
It was so big it ended up being the state play of the week on Metro News.
“I was surprised by that,” Maichle said. “I kept having friends and family tagging me on that and when I saw it I was surprised.”
Isaacs, who has pushed all the right buttons the last two seasons as Trail has gone 22-2, said he isn’t surprised.
He moved Maichle from cornerback, where he didn’t play much last year, to bandit, sort of a hybrid outside linebacker, this season.
“To be honest, we expected him to play well this season, and he has,” Isaacs said. “He is an aggressive-type player, we had a spot open and he has done a great job filling it.”
Maichle admitted he was nervous earlier in the season.
“I didn’t want to lose my position and like you said, we have a lot of great players on this team,” he said. “But the more I played the more confidence I got. I really never expected to make a play that would turn the momentum. To go from not playing at all (last year) at corner to starting at outside linebacker and helping our team, being involved in a play of the week, it’s been amazing.”
Maichle wasn’t quite done Sherman after his interception, recovering a fumble on the next possession that set up Chris Vines’ game-winning touchdown run.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Maichle said. “Cordell Lesher stripped the ball and I just happened to be in position to get on it.”
On a team capable of having a different star on a different night, Maichle certainly added his name to the list.
Isaacs said the status of injured starting quarterback Austin Isaacs, his son, will be game-time decision.
“He was in therapy (Wednesday) and he will be at therapy tomorrow, but I won’t make a decision until 7:29 Friday,” Isaacs said. “If he isn’t we have confidence in Chris (Vines). He’s done a great job.”
Vines has 22 yards rushing and 76 yards passing since replacing Isaacs, who suffered a high ankle sprain. He did score a rushing touchdown in each playoff win, the first two of his career.
Isaacs has 1,045 yards rushing and 984 yards passing.
The Patriots have the luxury of having a deep backfield with Morgan Ferris (127 carries for 913 yards and six touchdowns), Cordell Lesher (103 carries, 674 yards and 13 touchdowns), Nathan Hanshew (70 carries, 498 yards and two touchdowns) and Colton Yoder (51 carries, 404 yards and four touchdowns).
Yoder led Trail in rushing last week with 90 yards. His 18 carries were the most by a Midland Trail rusher this season.