By Kyle Lovern
RED JACKET – Perfection is not easy.
However, that is just what the highly ranked, strong Mingo Central Miners team did on Friday night at Harless Stadium as they defeated No. 9 Winfield 48-9 to finish 10-0 for the regular season.
The Miners have averaged scoring 45 points per game so far this season and the defense has also been strong. This is only the sixth year for the newly consolidated school that combined four Mingo County schools.
This is also the final season of coaching for longtime head coach Danny “Yogi” Kinder. This was his 250th career win in W. Va. (including the playoffs). His coaching tenure spanned nearly 40 years (he started out at Phelps, Ky.) This is the fifth time in his career that his team’s finished undefeated, the other four seasons were at Matewan.
It was also the young school’s first Cardinal Conference championship.
Mingo Central was ranked No. 2 in Class AA heading into the final game and should remain in that spot, giving them a nice position heading into the playoffs. If the Miners were to continue to win, they would play all of their playoffs games up to the semi-finals at the friendly confines of Harless Stadium.
But first things first. The Miners, led by Kinder, had to take on a tough Cardinal Conference opponent in the Winfield Generals, a new member in the Class AA league. Winfield had dropped down from Class AAA this season.
Kinder was pleased with his team’s win and the perfect 10-0 regular season and the conference title but said his squad still had more goals to achieve. Kinder won a state championship at Matewan, but would like nothing more than a state title for Mingo Central in his last season as head coach.
The fiery Kinder was treated to a party after the game and many of his current and former players came in for the event.
“Going undefeated has been our goal from August. We knew what we needed to take care of – now this will put us in a good position come playoffs. So proud of these guys and how they’ve worked,” said assistant coach Joey Fields.
“This is the best team we’ve ever had here. I’ve been with Mingo Central from the start. I called the first play ever and hope to call the last,” Fields, who serves as offensive coordinator, added.
“We plan to play four more games and put our Coach out on top,” Fields said of Kinder, who played for the veteran coach at old Matewan High School.
The Miners have been led by junior quarterback and Kennedy Award candidate Jeremy Dillon all season long and Friday was no different. Dillon, a 6-foot-5, 195 pound Division One prospect in both football and basketball, accounted for seven touchdowns. He rushed for four and threw for three more.
Dillon finished with 149 yards rushing on 13 carries and he was 22 of 33 passing for 266 yards and a trio of TDs. Central tallied 475 total yards on offense.
Freshman Drew Hatfield, who missed the last game with an illness, returned Friday night hauling in eight passes for 70 yards and a TD. Senior Tyler Grimmett caught five passes for 70 yards and a score. Dalton Sheppard caught three passes for 42 yards for MCHS, while Harmon hauled in three catches for 41 yards.
Kinder and his staff praised his offensive line for their continued play of opening seams for the running backs and giving Dillon time in the pocket to make his pinpoint passes.
Dillon gave the Miners the lead with 7:43 left in the first quarter as he connected with Hatfield on a 22 yard scoring strike. The play was set up with a 38 yard pass to Grimmett. The extra point kick was wide left, but Mingo led 6-0.
With 4:08 left, Dillon finished a drive with a 1-yard rushing TD. Billy Mitchem kicked the extra point to make it 13-0.
After a Winfield punt, Mingo Central took over on its own 27 yard line. Dillon connected with Thomas Harmon for a first down and another 15 yards was tacked on because of a late hit. Dillon then passed to Harmon again to move the ball to the 21 yard line. Dillon capped the 9-play drive with a 9-yard TD to make it 19-0 with :16 seconds left in the first quarter. The 2-point conversion failed.
Harmon intercepted a Andrew Huffman pass early in the second quarter. Then Dillon threw only his second pick of the season as Chris Farha came up with an interception for the Generals – one of the few bright spots for the visitors.
After a 3-and-out by Winfield, the Miners took over on their own 22 yard line.
Dillon weaved his way through the Winfield defense moving the ball out to the 44 with a 22 yard carry. After a pass completion to Harmon, Dillon took off for a nice 41 yard run to the 16. He finished the drive with a 10-yard pass to Grimmett. Big Joe Hunt ran in for the 2-point conversion to make it 27-0 with 5:43 left in the first half. Hunt finished with 57 rushing yards for the night. The “Runaway Coal Truck” caught one pass for 20 yards.
The Miners increased their lead to 33-0 as Dillon rushed for another TD from five yards out with :13 left in the half. Mitchem’s kick made it 34-0. The score capped a 11 play, 59 yard drive.
MCHS had 48 plays in the first half dominating the time of possession. They picked up an incredible 17 first downs and held Winfield to zero first downs.
The staff also praised the defense led by assistant coach Josh Sammons. The Miner’s held Winfield to 105 total yards. Caleb Lester, Grimmett and Harmon led a balanced MCHS defense in tackles.
With 8:47 left in the third quarter Dillon pushed his way into the end zone for another rushing TD from three yards out. Mitchem’s kick made it 41-0.
Winfield threatened to score as they got into the red zone. But senior defensive end Daniel Buchanan sacked the quarterback on third down and the MC secondary batted down a 4th down pass to keep them out of the end zone
The Generals finally got on the scoreboard on a 43-yard field goal by Jordan McVey.
The Miners got one more score as Caleb “K-Bo” Lester scored on a 20 yard run on a screen pass from Dillon. Mitchem kicked another XP to make it 48-3.
Winfield got a late TD from Trystan Willard to make it 48-9. Huff completed 8-of-21 passes for 47 yards, one pick and no TDs. Nick Vance rushed for 25 yards to lead Winfield on the ground,
Mingo Central now awaits the SSAC’s final points ratings that will officially come out on Sunday to see who their first opponent will be. Unofficially it should be Liberty-Harrison (The Generals (7-3) will still make the playoffs, but will drop down and be on the road for their first game. The Generals will probably play James Monroe (7-3).
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)
Score by quarters:
Mingo: 19 25 7 0 – 48
Winfield: 0 0 3 6 – 9