When Frank Isaacs was named head football coach at Midland Trail in 2015, the Patriots were struggling.
At a time when the Patriots were considered an easy win, Isaacs restored the pride that had made his alma mater a perennial playoff contender back in the day.
However, after leading Trail to the playoffs the past five years, Isaacs decided after last season that it was time to step away from coaching.
Now the keys to the Midland Trail machine ironically belongs to a former rival from across the New River Gorge Bridge, Jeremy Moore
Although Moore graduated from Trail’s biggest rival, Fayetteville, he is certainly no stranger in Hico.
Moore has been on Isaac’s staff from the beginning.
“Frankie coached at the middle school with a friend of mine, Jason Russell,” Moore said. “We played football together and Jason has been my lifelong friend. Jason was his assistant coach and when Frankie got hired up to the high school, Jason invited me over to his house one night to talk to (Frankie).”
“We are both outside zone guys and we kind of hit of football-wise,” Moore went on to say. “Frankie has been a good friend of mine every since. We worked well together and it was kind of scary at times how we would read each others minds.”
Stepping into the head coaching limelight for the first time ever, Moore has quickly realized, head coach and assistant coach are two different titles for a reason.
“Up to this point, I have done everything, but coach football since I was named head coach,” Moore said, laughing. “I am excited to get to the coaching part. I really didn’t realize what all Frankie did. I showed up, coached football and went home to my family. There is a lot of behind the scenes stuff. It seems like you are never off of your phone.”
While Moore admitted he really didn’t know that he wanted to be a head football coach, he has played and learned from some of the best.
In high school he played for the legendary Fayetteville head coach, Frank Spangler. After high school he traveled to Morgantown to play for Rich Rodriguez.
“I was in coach Rodriguez’s actual first recruiting class. I worked hard, but I was only 240 pounds as an offensive lineman,” Moore recalled. “I was athletic for my size, but everybody up there was 300 pounds of twisted steel. Then coach Rodriguez started bringing in these 250 pound lineman that could run and play up-tempo. I felt like I could play there.”
Backing up All-American and Rimington Award winner Dan Mozes, playing time was limited for Moore, who instead took a different approach to the game.
“I learned under Rick Trickett who is one of the best offensive line coaches ever. God gave me the wisdom to understand that I might not be good enough to contribute on a high level, but it was a great opportunity to learn,” Moore said. “I have kept every note I took at WVU. I have every playbook and every nutrition packet and every workout. I backed up Dan Mozes, so I got to see first hand how to do things.”
The Patriots’ newest head man noted the similarity between his college program and the program he now leads.
“Coach Rodriguez’s program correlates to this program. He took undersized kids that nobody really recruited and with hard work and determined effort they were able to trump talent. That is how we could beat teams like Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech” Moore said. “That is like Midland Trail. We are not physically more talented than the many of the teams we will play. We just have to work and play harder.”
The good part about Moore stepping in at Trail is the transition should be rather smooth for the players.
“Schematically not much will change. I may not go as fast as Frankie, but I am still up in the air about that. We are really just evaluating our personnel,” Moore said. “Defensively we will still run a 3-3-5 scheme. We are still going to be physical and we will be in shape. Frankie established a phenomenal foundation and I would be re-missed if I didn’t want to build on it.”
On the field, the Patriots took a pretty solid jolt from graduation and there will be some holes to fill. Moore will have to find a new signal caller and a couple a newcomers on the line if Trail is to be successful this year.
“The positions we return, we will be really, really good, but our holes are glaring holes. In single-A ball, quarterback is a position that can make you or break you. We have a few guys that will roll in and out of there. It will depend on the style we want to go with,” Moore said. “We have some guys that can spin the ball. It’s just a matter of who shows up Aug. 1 and we can see who is good at what. Offensive line is a big hole. We will return three starters, but I will likely have two young guys in there as guards.”
Trail will also be young this year, but Moore has high hopes for his young players.
“We have 50-60 kids coming out and 28 are freshman. Our freshman and sophomore group is going to be phenomenal. They are such a good group of kids,” Moore said. “They are the ones getting in the weight room. There is no, I am just an eighth grader type of deal. They have stepped up in the reps and there mentality is great.”
Graduation also took its toll on Trail in regards to leadership, but Moore has already put that concern to rest.
“Our senior group this year has really surprised me. The guys that have showed up have been phenomenal leaders,” Moore explained. “That was one concern I had, but I immediately checked that off after the first week. I have worked with a lot of these kids for a long time. I’m glad I was the one chosen to see them through.”
Midland Trail hosts Clay County to open the season Aug. 26