HICO, W.Va. — Midland Trail had been dominant in each of its first three games leading up to its matchup against Richwood.
The Patriots came into the contest having outscored the opposition 98-28 and their early season performances led to a No. 3 Class A rating Tuesday in the first WVSSAC playoff ratings of the season.
Moving the game against the Lumberjacks up to Wednesday due to potential weather problems Friday did nothing to slow down the momentum of Midland Trail, which became the state’s first 4-0 team with a convincing 44-8 win on its home field.
“I told the kids we needed to jump out on them really fast, because I was worried the weather was going to move in and we were going to have a nasty field,” Midland Trail coach Frank Isaacs said. “The longer the game went, the nastier the field was going to get. So I wanted to jump on them quick.”
A team that prides itself on having an abundance of weapons put each one on display in a dominant first half that allowed the Patriots to win for the 14th time in their last 16 games.
After opening the game with a reverse on a lengthy kickoff return that allowed it to set up at the Richwood 40-yard line, Midland Trail needed only four plays to cover that distance, with Cordell Lesher finishing things off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Lesher also ran in the two-point conversion, leaving the Patriots with an 8-0 lead just 1:19 into the action.
Richwood (2-2) quarterback Caleb Jantuah had a pass intercepted by Jonathon Stark on the Lumberjacks’ opening drive, but Stark fumbled on the return, and Richwood’s Zach Bailey recovered at the Patriots’ 28.
Even with the field position, the Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize, and they turned the ball over on downs at the Patriots’ 19.
“That’s a tough offense,” Isaacs said. “They put 28 points against Fayetteville and (46) against Webster County. We’re pretty balanced. We’re only getting better, because we have some young kids on defense stepping in to fill some of those holes we had last year and those young kids are growing each week and getting a lot better.”
Midland Trail added to its lead on the first series of the second quarter thanks to a 47-yard touchdown run by Morgan Ferris. Lesher crossed the goal line again on the two-point run, upping the Patriots’ advantage to 16-0 at the 10:16 mark of the second quarter.
Nathan Hanshew had an 80-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty, which prevented Midland Trail from extending its lead midway through the second quarter. However, the Patriots added to their lead before halftime after going 65 yards in 59 seconds, with Hanshew hauling in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Austin Isaacs on the final play of the first half. Hanshew was well defended on the play, but came up with a diving grab anyhow to send his team into the break with a 22-0 lead.
“We had missed a couple there earlier and I was very frustrated,” coach Isaacs said. “Austin wasn’t throwing the ball where he was supposed to be throwing and he actually called that last play. It was an unbelievable catch.”
Richwood got to within striking distance on the opening series of the second half after it needed 10 plays to cover 65 yards and got a 6-yard touchdown run from Jeremiah Johnston. Jantuah found Michael McGee on the two-point pass, cutting the Lumberjacks deficit to 22-8 with 7:59 to play in the third quarter.
But Midland Trail had an immediate answer and went back up by three touchdowns when Isaacs ran for a 28-yard TD. Lesher took care of the two-point conversion with another successful run, leaving the Patriots with a 30-8 lead and 5:27 remaining in the third.
Colin Dempsey recovered a Richwood fumble on the ensuing kickoff and the Patriots added to their lead soon after on a 3-yard TD run by Colton Yoder.
Dempsey’s interception late in the third also set up his 31-yard touchdown reception on the final play of the quarter for the game’s final scoring play.
The Lumberjacks, who entered the game No. 13, dropped their second straight after starting the season with a pair of wins. Richwood has allowed 85 points in its two losses.
“That’s a pretty good opponent we went up against tonight,” Richwood coach Chad Hall said. “We’re not playing good football right now. We’re still not playing good defensively and the offense didn’t bring it tonight. Eight points is not going to get it done and 44 points on the other side is definitely not going to get it done either.
“Our defense is really struggling right now. That’s on me. We’re trying to make as many adjustments as possible. We still can’t find that mesh and connection. We lost a lot of experience last year defensively and you’re seeing it.”