RED JACKET – What do the Mingo Central Miners have that they did not last season? Depth at key skill positions is the answer.
Last season the Mingo Central Miners were close, oh so close, to making a legitimate championship game run. The Tolsia Rebels stopped the Miners in their tracks during the semi-final game at Tolsia. Many opinions are available for why the Miners lost but one of the most evident facts about the game was that the Miners were missing two key players to injury. Deonte Joplin was hurt going into the game and quarterback Stephen Hammond was hurt during the game. The Miners gave a valiant effort but were left empty handed.
That pesky problem may be history during the 2016 football season. Earlier in the year the Miners were laying their hopes on the shoulder of freshman Drew Hatfield. Hatfield was expected to shoulder the quarterback workload and lead the Miners into a new season. Before the first regular season practice it was announced that former Tug Valley standout Jeremy Dillon would be transferring to Mingo Central. This was huge news for the Miners.
Dillon took snaps as a quarterback at Tug Valley but was used as a versatile player. He played running back, and caught some passes out of the receiver position.
Now that Dillon’s momentum has been given to Mingo Central, the odds may ever be in their favor.
No one can predict for certain what the future of the Miners season may hold, but on balance things are looking up for the Miners and another playoff push towards a state title. Dillon sharing the quarterback workload with Hatfield is not the only reason the Miners have a legitimate shot at a state title this season, there is also depth at all other skill positions. Wrap all of that around the Miners stunning fast paced offense and you have a recipe for domination. The Miners may not make it to the final game this season but they certainly have all of the tools to get there.
Last season Joplin was the Miners standout back, and when fullback Joe Hunt took a fall most of the attention turned to Joplin. Hunt, who will return for his senior season, appears to have healed completely from his leg injury that happened late last season. During the injuries sustained by Hunt and Joplin another player, who was mostly considered a defensive star stepped up in the halfback position.
Towards the latter half of the 2015 season the name Kaleb (K-bo) Lester was getting announced more and more. Lester stepped into the role of lead back and produced greatly behind a stellar offensive line. Lester will be returning once again with Hunt, and will also receive help from the speedy Issac Fox in the backfield.
Getting into the fat of the Miners offense is not for the faint of heart. Opposing defenses could be facing an uneven goal line offense with nine players on the short side of the field with a quarterback and tightend hanging out somewhere in the middle. It’s an easy offense to oppose but if the Miners have the element of surprise and Daniel Buchanan lined up at the goal line you can pretty much count those points before the ball is snapped. On the other side defenses could be facing a squared up goal line offense that just recovered the ball off of a special teams play and is seven yards away from pay dirt. At this time the Miners use quickness to smash the ball into the end zone before defenses can even realize how close they are. The Miners have numerous plays to work in their advantage during these types of scenarios.
Getting back to the depth aspect in the skill positions; the Miners not only have two very athletic quarterback options with different attributes to bring to the table but they have the size and skill on the outside as well. Tyler Grimmett, Dalton Sheppard, Thomas Harmon, Hatfield, Fox, and Buchanan are all lethal players to be opposing with the skill in the Miners backfield to watch out for also. These players used with play action could produce the Miners past their record setting numbers from last season.
Yet, all of this skill does not make a championship team alone. There are also two other key factors that play major roles in a team’s success throughout the season; defense and blocking. The blocking issue is one the Miners can rest easy on with the assurance of their veteran offensive line. The line is smaller than that of a picture perfect offensive line that would be placed on a poster, however; the line is no the less as strong. This works in various ways with the Miners fast paced offense. The Miners depend on players to get up from the ground and back into position as soon as possible to hit the opposing defense with another strike quickly. A shorter line will also help the quarterback as he scans over the field looking for a receiver.
Defense is another issue all together. The Miners seem content with the rate the defense is progressing. On top of a sound defense the Miners also have plenty of special teams’ plays that are sure to stun teams along the season’s path.
In the world of high school football a coach is usually blessed to have a sound team that can pass or run, tackle or intercept, kick or recover. The Miners are setting above par in a few categories heading into the 2016 season. It’s impossible to say they will make it to the final game but it’s an understatement to say they have the weapons to get there.
(William plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] on on twitter @sidplaster.)