By Cam Huffman
Last year, Midland Trail ended a 26-game losing streak and finished with a 2-8 record. This year, the Patriots have already doubled that win total and are looking to take another step.
At 4-2 overall and winners of four of their last five games, Midland Trail is playing with confidence, and the postseason is suddenly a realistic goal.
There are a number of reasons for the turnaround — a solid offensive line and a defense that’s holding opponents to 13 points per game the last three weeks among them — but none any bigger than the play of senior halfback Jake Grimmett, this week’s Register-Herald Player of the Week.
When Grimmett has topped 100 yards on the ground, the Patriots are 4-0. When he’s been held below the century mark, they’re 0-2.
“We’re having a pretty good year, and Jake’s been a big part of it,” said Midland Trail head coach Joe Dean. “He’s really a fine young man, and he does a lot for us.”
Luckily for Dean, and for Patriot fans, Grimmett has been very consistent the last three weeks. In three straight wins over Richwood, Van and Montcalm, Grimmett has rushed for 183, 187 and 134 yards, respectively. He’s also scored five touchdowns.
“He follows his blocks, and he has very good cutback ability,” said Dean. “When he’s running, he can change direction very quickly.”
But that’s not Grimmett’s only contribution to the Midland Trail attack. He’s lined up at quarterback at times this season, completing 9 of 26 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns, and he handles the teams punting duties, where he’s averaged 39 yards per boot.
That’s when he’s not taking the field on defense, playing in the Patriot secondary.
“He’s a great weapon with punting,” said Dean. “We don’t like to have to use him, but he does the job when we do. He can do a little big of everything for us.”
Everything could include getting the Patriots back to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Talk of streaks hasn’t been anything the home fans wanted to hear in recent years in Hico, but now the community is buzzing with an opportunity for the Patriots to win their fourth straight this Friday when they hit the road to Clay County.
The Panthers are 1-4 on the year with losses to Roane County, Braxton County, Valley and Nicholas County, but Dean expects a huge challenge from a team that took undefeated Valley down to the wire.
“Their record is very deceiving,” he said. “They have played a very tough schedule and played those people very tough. They play really hard and do a really good job.”
But if Grimmett finds room to run, the Patriots could assure themselves a .500 season with a big road victory.
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