Between 2014 and 2016, Midland Lee High School had won eight football games. The last of those was during Head Coach Clint Hartman’s first year — the biggest disappointment in his young career.
“Last year as a head coach, was the first time ever that I didn’t make the playoffs,” Hartman said of the Rebels 2016 campaign. “I didn’t come here expecting to be the head coach and being 3-7. As a matter of fact, I take last year on me. I didn’t do a good enough job to get us into the playoffs and we had an opportunity late in the year.”
It wasn’t all his fault, though. There were injuries before Hartman arrived at Midland Lee in the middle of spring of 2016. He was a new coach and had to work with a bunch of new kids, a new city and new assistants. For that, Hartman and the Rebels excelled in having a chance in every game.
But that didn’t mean Hartman was going to let excuses be the definition of his Midland Lee tenure. You see, Hartman is a man from San Antonio, but his heart has resided in west Texas for some time.
Since the fall of 1993 to be exact.
Hartman, playing football at Sul Ross at the time, took a trip to Midland with a college friend. The trip just so happened to be at the same time as the storied rivalry between Lee and Permian. After his journey west, he hasn’t even considered himself from San Antonio.
“I was hooked, so I started coaching in west Texas,” Hartman said. “I like to say I wasn’t born in west Texas, but I got here as fast as I could. Hooked from then and now I just can’t believe I’m the coach at Midland Lee, my dream job and have an opportunity to play in this thing.”
Fast forward to spring 2017 when Hartman canceled spring football for the year. Local and even some national news outlets picked it up as people freaked out and drew conclusions. Hartman, though, kept a calm head.
He knew what he was doing.
“I think that’s part of the process,” Hartman, who is in love with his team, said. “No one got hurt in the spring, we didn’t lose anybody to an injury. We got four kids back who we lost the year before that who were juniors, they had a chance to play this year. All of them started and played. Also, we feel like the extra week and the extra scrimmage allowed us to answer questions.”
Another reason to cancel spring football wasn’t even a football reason. What some may not realize is Hartman doubles as the Midland Lee athletic director. So while he’s thinking about leading his team to the playoffs, he’s also trying to get every other Rebel squad to the same place.
“We’re playing Monopoly and I want to win at Lee High School,” Hartman said. “I want our football program to be good, this year, our volleyball program made the playoffs for the first time in four years. We want to have a very strong athletic program that develops young men and women into being better parents in the future and husbands and fathers and mothers and that takes time. It really does.”
Run The Ball
Coach Hartman is having a good year now. After the not-so-spring semester, his team had plenty of players double their weight room maxes. Plenty more pick up their speed and plenty buy-in to the team-first attitude Hartman seeps.
Three of those young men are a part of one of the best kept secrets in high school football.
Quarterback Colby Standard (1,659 passing yards) has an arm. He can zip it and dissect a defense with the rest of them. What else can he do? Well, he can rush for 988 yards through nine games.
“It’s great,” Hartman said of his senior quarterback. “Because he moves the game up. You run the zone read and you can either give it or pull it. A lot of times, in a traditional offense, when the quarterback hands it off to the running back, you end up with only 10 players because they won’t block. So you’re playing with 10 and the defense has 11.
“What we do is we make it even. So now you have a bunch of one-on-ones every where and you have the ability to find a way to possibly score.”
Keeping it in the backfield are junior Josh Traylor (1,292 rushing yards) and senior Avery Akbar (965). Between them two, are 32 total touchdowns.
Akbar, who tore his ACL and missed Hartman’s first year at Lee, has been a pleasant surprise and also a catalyst in an offense with more than 3,500 rushing yards.
The only problem coach Hartman and his staff have? Who do we give the ball to on the goal line?
Hartman says it depends on what the defense is giving them. Obviously, if the quarterback run is there, it’s an easy decision. But don’t forget about the other two, as this team essentially has three MVP-caliber players.
“Because they’re so different,” Hartman said of his trio. “We certainly did not plan on Standard rushing for that many yards. Then we got into the year and we thought, ‘man he’s pretty good at this.’ He’s a tough, West Texas kid. Avery Akbar is a senior who is a downhill, run you over kind of back. And Josh [Traylor] is a little bit of both. He can make you miss, he can run you over.”
But Wait, There’s More
But the unsung hero, is exactly what Hartman calls a West Texan. Someone who runs through a wall for his best friends, without asking why. The guy who will drive from Midland to Marfa just to take you gas because your car ran out: Isaiah Ramirez.
“He’s our fullback, we put him in the game and that guy does not get enough credit for how hard he blocks and does things,” Hartman said. “He’s an unsung hero that is very, very, very important to what we’re doing right now.”
This isn’t to say the whole team revolves around four players. The defense has allowed 27.7 points a game, and only more than 30 three times. Hartman, a true defensive-minded guy, says he knows a good defense will win any game.
But he also says you always need more points. That’s why units like the offensive line get all the credit, because without them, there’s no where to run.
“I think it’s attributed to our offensive line, our line coach because they’re all good players,” Hartman said. “But nope. You can’t get three players close to 1,000 yards unless your offensive line is creating some seams. I think all three of them are unselfish and it’s been really fun to watch, it really has.”
Are You Ready For This?
As of the publish date, the Rebels are 8-1 and very much in the playoffs. Coming up next, they play rival Odessa Permian, who are 7-1.
Last season, there were eight wins between these two teams. The rebuild seems to be over for the Rebels, and it’s in huge part thanks to a trio of guys who can run with the best of them.
But when asked if he’s surpsied it only took one year, he scoffed and said no.
“We expected it to happen, we did tell our kids that there was going to be a football team that brought Midland Lee to the standard it used to be at,” Hartman said. “I’m proud to say team 57, which is this one, has done that already. I’m glad we didn’t have to do that because I’m an impatient name, so I’m really happy.”
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