The stars will be out in Hico Friday night.
Independence’s Kennedy Award candidate Atticus Goodson will be attending an important baseball event this weekend in Florida and will miss the annual Patriot Bowl, pitting Independence against Midland Trail. Goodson is also one of the state’s top baseball players and has verbally committed to one of the nation’s top JUCO baseball programs, Walters State.
“It’s something we’ve known about since June,” Independence coach John H. Lilly said. “His teammates don’t have a problem with it. His coaches don’t have a problem with it. If anybody else has a problem with it then that is their problem.”
Midland Trail’s Aden Isaacs, one of the top linebackers in the area (averaging 12 tackles per game) and one of the team’s key offensive players, is out with a knee injury suffered last week against Nicholas County.
“We got some good news on it (Wednesday) and it’s not as bad as they first thought,” Midland Trail coach Frank Isaacs said of his son’s injury. “They thought he might have a fractured knee. It turns out it was something that he was born with that we just found out about, and it looks like a fracture. But he could be back next Friday (against James Monroe).”
Still, the game must go on and for No. 3 Independence that means next man up.
That means Judah Price and Tyler Linkswiler will be more prevalent in the run game. Price doesn’t have the size of a runner like Goodson, but he does have speed. The Patriots diminutive dynamo has 220 yards rushing and two touchdowns and is also a terror on punt returns. Linkswiler has 120 yards and a touchdown.
You won’t find any opposing coaches who are selling Price short.
Coaches of the last three Independence opponents raved about what he has done so far this season.
Summers County coach Josh Evans opted to start going for it on fourth down last week in a 56-7 Indy win because he didn’t want to kick to Price, who returned one punt for a touchdown and had a couple called back.
Isaacs is no different.
“I don’t know all the names, but No. 10 (Price) is a football player,” said Isaacs, himself once an undersized nose guard during his high school days. “I told somebody just the other day that he reminds me of Tavon Austin (the former Mountaineer mighty mite who went on to play in the NFL as a return man). He’s got outstanding speed and he can play the game.”
Trail has its own compact runner in Robert Ruffner, who has 339 yards and is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, including 112 last week at Nicholas County.
The battle is also shaping up as a good one between two quality quarterbacks, both seniors who are starters for the first time, Midland Trail’s Josh Dickerson and Independence’s Logan Phalin.
In fact, Dickerson is playing high school football for the first time. Dickerson has completed 29 of 41 passes for 526 yards and nine touchdowns.
Phalin, a lefty, completed 18 of 30 for 403 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 123 rush yards.
Both quarterbacks have thrown just one interception.
Ayden Simms is the top receiver at Trail with 11 catches for 241 yards and five touchdowns. Issacs is the second at nine for 159 and a touchdown and Cody Harrell has seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Independence is led by Trey Bowers, who has eight catches for 145 yards and four touchdowns. Cyrus Goodson has seven catches for 194 yard and three touchdowns and Price has four catches for 89 and a touchdown.
Trail has won the last four contests in the series, which was not played last year due to Covid.
“When you play Midland Trail you better strap it up,” Lilly said. “They have always been a physical team and Frankie and those guys have done a great job with that program. They have given us a beating in the recent past and if we want to change that we better understand we have to show up to play.”
“Independence beat us the first two seasons we were here, back when they had Noah Adams and that bunch, and we felt like they didn’t take us seriously, that it wasn’t a rivalry for them, it was just the first game (the game was always played the opening week in the past)," Isaacs said.
The first four Independence games have all been played on a running clock in most of the second half, and some have seen quarter times cut down.
“We have been preaching to the kids this week, don’t eat the cheese,” Lilly said. “In other words, don’t believe all the great things people are saying about you. Just go out and do your job and let that take care of things.”
The game is a 7 p.m. kickoff.