MIDLAND TRAIL Patriots
Coach: Frank Isaacs (seventh season, 44-19)
2020 Record: 5-2
Postseason: Second round Class A playoffs, (beat Buffalo by Covid forfeit, lost to St. Mary’s 52-49)
Offensive starters returning: 7 (RB Aden Isaacs, RB Robert Ruffner, WR Ayden Simms, WR Cody Harrell, Ath Matt Light, OL Danny Nottingham, OL Robbie Knight).
Defensive starters returning: 7 (LB Aden Isaacs, LB Robert Ruffner, DL Peyton Kirk, LB Danny Nottingham, DL Robbie Knight, DB Cody Harrell, DB Ayden Simms.
Team offensive numbers: Rush – 1,586 (264.3) Pass -514 (85.7) Total offense – 2,100 (350.0). Points per game – 174 (29.0)
Defensive ppg: 97 (16.6)
Because of Fayette County’s problems with Covid-19 in early September, Trail did not start the season until Oct. 2. The Patriots opened with a victory over rival Meadow Bridge 21-2, rolled through two Class AA teams in Wayne and Shady Spring then fell to Buffalo 7-0 at home in a game where they just could not get anything going on offense.
Three weeks later they would beat Buffalo, by Covid-19 forfeit, in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
Offense would not be a problem in the next round, when the Patriots scored 49 points against St, Mary’s. Problem is, the eventual state champion scored 52 in one of the games of the year.
Quarterback Chris Vines had his best day as a Patriot in his last game, rushing for 203 yards and four touchdowns. He played in the North South Game in June representing Midland Trail.
Robert Ruffner went over 100 yards for the fifth time in six games for Midland Trail and finished the year with 697 yards and four touchdowns.
Midland Trail, true to form, had one of the top rushing teams in the area, averaging 264.3 behind the latest iteration of the “Great Wall of Hico.”
Players to watch: Midland Trail always has one of the top rushing offenses and 2021 will be no different with Robert Ruffner and Aden Isaacs back in the fold. “Isaacs and Ruffner are ready to impress people this year. They are like Thunder and Lightning.” Isaacs, the coach’s son and a bruising runner, is “Thunder.” Last season the fullback rushed for 319 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. “Lightning” Ruffner, a mainstay in the backfield, rushed for a team-high 697 and averaged a took over 8.0 yards per tote.
Players who will surprise: one reason the running game is so potent is the play of the offensive line, and the many formations of the Great Wall of Hico. Isaacs is once again high on the makeup of his line. “Peyton Kirk, Robbie Knight and Danny Nottingham will be key on the line play, along with (Decoti) Hurley, (T.C.) Perry and (Kellen) Queen.”
Statistical leaders 2020
Rush: Robert Ruffner 81-697-4. Pass: Chris Vines 32-61-3-514-6. Receive: Aaron Sisler (8-184-1)
Preview: Trail has been one of the area’s most successful Class A teams over the last four seasons, putting together a 33-10 record in that span and making four straight playoffs appearances, advancing to the second round twice and the semifinals once.
Isaacs feels like this year’s team will fit firmly in that category if he can develop a young quarterback to replace Chris Vines and fill a couple other holes left by graduation.
“Thunder and Lightning” will lead the way. For his career Robert Ruffner has amassed 1,465 career yards and 12 touchdowns. He filled an injury void against Westside his sophomore year and had 281 yards and four touchdowns before being felled by injury later in the season. Last year Covid limited him to seven games. Ruffner has averaged 7.4 yards per carry and with a healthy season will make a run at 1,000 yards. Isaacs is also a mainstay at linebacker for the Patriots and will be the leader of that unit this season.
Isaacs said he is looking forward to seeing some of the players who did not get an opportunity last year step into a more prominent role, like Zane Buford who “can do a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball” and “could potentially play a big role” and Caden Ooten who “has been a beast in the weight room and will be a big contributor on the defensive side of the ball.”
10-2 at Meadow Bridge 21-2
10-9 at Wayne 31-20
10-16 at Shady Spring 38-13
10-23 Buffalo 0-7
11-6 at Pocahontas County 35-3
11-15 Buffalo forfeit win
11-22 at St. Mary’s 49-52
8-27 at Clay County
9-10 Meadow Bridge
9-17 at Richwood
9-24 at Summers County
10-1 Nicholas County
10-15 at James Monroe
10-29 at Greenbrier West
11-5 Pocahontas County
Coaches Quote: – Experience and confidence are abundant in Hico. Develop a new quarterback and fill a hole or two and we will be in the conversation as one of the better teams in West Virginia again in 2021. — Midland Trail head coach Frank Isaacs.