Midlo’s memorable season comes to an end against Hermitage

Midlo’s final game of the 2021 season

Photo by: Lauren Cassano
The Trojan football players embrace each other after the game as their season comes to a close.

The moment the Midlo community has been dreaming about for years finally came on Friday, November 19, 2021, when the Varsity Trojan Football Team took on the Hermitage Panthers during the 2021 5C Semi-Regional Virginia High School League Game.

Hermitage, who entered the event with a record of 8-2, had won their last home playoff game against Glen Allen 42-7. Midlo, who also sat 8-2, had just also played their first regional home playoff game against the Godwin Eagles where they emerged victorious 42-13. Up until this point, the 2021 season had served as a historic few months for the Trojans, with them finishing 7-2 in the regular season and ranked #2 in their 5C division overall. Such high standings elicited school-wide spirit and support for the program whose fan base packed the F.W. Poates Stadium for every home game. Over the course of the season, both the student section and the seemingly untouchable football team received County-wide recognition across various social media platforms. This momentum undoubtedly carried into the intense Friday night match-up.

As kick-off took place at 7 P.M. sharp, the Trojans made their way to the field both mentally and physically prepared, ready to make a statement to all avid high school football fans. At the start of the game, Hermitage’s kicker launched the ball to the 3-yard line, resulting in senior Max McKey returning it to the 16-yard line. Midlo started their first possession of the game with a plan to maximize their possession time, as well as keep the opposing offense off the field. This initiative worked successfully for the Trojans early on with the team showcasing their proficiency in running the football and attacking the second level of the Panther’s defense.

However, the Trojans proved unable to fully carry out their game plan, as the team’s possession only lasted for approximately eight minutes. Their advantage ended when the team failed to score on the 24-yard line, which was followed by a missed field goal by junior kicker Maxx Lawton.

After the scoreless drive by the Trojans, the Panthers geared up to start their first possession on offense. Although Hermitage could not complete their play either as they ultimately failed to convert on their offensive opportunities during the last part of the first quarter. Soon, Midlo eventually recovered with a massive punt block by senior Zach Phillips. Junior Cooper Meads and senior Braeden Lee immediately scored on 19-yard pass completion, making the score 7-0 in favor of Midlo after an extra point was earned by Lawton.

Midlo huddles up to discuss a play (Photo by: Lauren Cassano)

In the opening quarter of the game, the Trojans displayed signs of being able to control all three phases of the game, which included having over eight minutes of possession time on offense, only allowing 14-yards total on defense and forcing a blocked punt inside their opponent’s territory. This allowed Midlo to enter the second quarter with a 7-0 advantage.

After an up and down first quarter for both teams, the Panthers started off the next quarter with the ball at their own side of the field. After an underwhelming and stagnant first quarter, Hermitage was now attempting to take back control. Unfortunately for the Panthers, their quarterback Jaylen Burton’s pass was intercepted by Midlo sophomore Knox Berry, resulting in a defensive touchdown by the Trojans, setting the score at 14-0 after Lawton’s successful field goal.

With eleven minutes left in the first half, the Panthers quickly made adjustments after observing Midlo’s plays, which gave them the ability to take possession offensively for the second time in the second quarter. With this newfound edge above the Trojans, Hermitage worked to maintain a balanced attack on offense, all the while having a methodical drive down the field.

Cooper Meads attempts to throw the ball downfield (Photo by: Lauren Cassano)

As a result, the Panthers scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown inside Midlo’s 5-yard line, cutting Midlo’s lead in half 14-7 after the Panthers kicker converted the extra point. Afterward, Midlo struggled to advance the ball downfield throughout seven of their plays, so they only managed to get a total of eighteen yards on their second drive of the quarter. Subsequently, this led to a turnover on downs during the last minute of the half and Midlo giving the ball right back to the Panthers.

Since Hermitage started another possession on offense within a short time span, they ended up not being able to add more points on the scoreboard. At this point in the game, Hermitage’s defense, however, discovered how to slow down Midlo’s offense so that they could not move the ball as effectively down the field. With this in mind, the Panthers forced two turnovers on downs and allowed approximately eighteen offensive yards throughout the duration of the second quarter. Now, with the score tied at 14-14 heading into halftime, Hermitage headed under their bleachers while Midlo rushed off to their locker room to discuss the game-plan for the second half.

Midlo lines up before the snap (Photo By: Lauren Cassano)

When both teams returned to the field, Trojan’s kicker Lawton again launched the ball to the 26-yard line at the start of the second half. At this time, Hermitage offensively exposed one of  Midlo’s biggest weaknesses in regards to running the ball efficiently. The combination of players on Hermitage’s team, including Jeremiah Coney, KaRon Burton and quarterback Jaylen Burton gave the Trojans problems in the run game as they rushed for 74-yards on their first possession. Given that this was one of Midlo’s biggest weaknesses all season, the Panthers realized that they had to find a way to attack their run defense in order to break the tie in the second half. As a result, the Panthers scored a 28-yard rushing touchdown during their first possession, making the score 21-14. The Trojan’s momentum completely disappeared following that disheartening drive, as their offense had a three and out during first possession and a fumble by Meads after they rushed for 21-yards into the Panther’s territory.

Hermitage would go on to win the quarter 7-0 with an established run game combined with a dominant defense. Therefore, as the fourth quarter approached, Hermitage was now in the driver’s seat while time was running out for Midlo to score.

Despite the lack of action in the fourth quarter, the back and forth between both teams became as intense as ever. The Trojans desperately attempted to bring back their intense defense from the first half, but the momentum the Panthers obtained was too strong. Hermitage settled for a field goal once in range to bring the score to 24-14. As for the Trojans, the rest of the quarter did not unfold how the team had hoped with Meads throwing a devastating interception to the Hermitage defense that decimated any chance of a comeback.

Hermitage soon brought the game to a close with twenty-four unanswered points, making for a very impressive second half. As the clock wound down, however, Midlo enjoyed their final moments playing together as a team.

In the end, the Trojans finished their season with an impressive record of 8-3. With Matt Hutchings winning the 5C coach of the year award, Midlo has created a great foundation that will be sustainable for years to come with their young roster. The milestones the team accomplished this year brought about well-deserved state-wide recognition that the program had been working towards for many years. With this standard of excellence now set in place, both players and fans are left with a mentality centered on determination and a hunger for success moving forward.