Clint Hartman came to Midland Lee in 2016 looking to jump start a tradition-rich program that has struggled on the field in recent years. In his first season, he hit a rough patch as the Rebels finished 3-7, Three games into 2017, it’s been a very different story. Midland Lee is off to an impressive 3-0 start, their best start at this point of the season since 1999 with wins over El Paso Coronado, Abilene High, and El Paso El Dorado.
After a transition last season, Hartman credits his team buying in to his philosophy.
“These kids bought into what our vision was and believed what we asked of them,” Hartman said, “We always talk to them about investing time or wasting it. I think they invested their time wisely and it’s paying dividends now.”
Part of that investment came in an unconventional fashion during the offseason as Midland Lee elected to not have spring football. Hartman admits that the decision to skip that portion of the offseason “was a little controversial”, but he felt that it was something that was best for the program at the time.
“We lost four players the year before in spring for the year and we got them all back and then we felt that starting a week earlier in the fall would help us get in better condition,” Hartman said of the decision, “We felt the positives outweighed the negatives.”
He’s seen the results on the field already thanks in part to a strong offensive attack that’s averaging more than 582 yards and 51 points in the early part of the season. Senior quarterback Colby Standard (640 passing yards, 6 TD) and junior running back Josh Traylor (592 yards rushing, 9 TD) lead the way for the Rebels.
“Colby’s been very smart and accurate with the football,” Hartman said of his quarterback, “he’s a tough kid that can run with the ball and he’s a winner. Sometimes, you just have to find kids that have ‘it’ and he’s got ‘it’.”
Hartman has similar praise for the reigning District 2-6A Newcomer of the Year in Traylor.
“He’s a product of everything the coaches have asked him to do,” Hartman said of his leading rusher, “He actually ran JV track last year and some might say he doesn’t want to run on JV. But he was able to get even faster from running a 4.5 to a low 4.4. He’s also a better person than a running back. He loves his teammates, he’ll block and do whatever. Some kids with his talent have a big head but he does not.”
The defense has also seen a marked improvement, giving up an average of 24 points per game down from 42 per game a year ago. Linebackers Isaiah Nunez (43 tackles) and Kougar Rodriguez along with defensive lineman Jaiven White anchor a strong front seven while the secondary, led so far by sophomore Kole Taylor, has also been better and now getting healthy according to Hartman.
“I’m very proud of our defense,” Hartman said, “We have a good mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores and I feel really good where we’re at right now.”
The Rebels have a big challenge this week against Lubbock Monterey on Thursday night and then start District 2-6A play with a matchup of rival Midland High. Hartman knows that his team will be tested down the road in a tough district but wants to keep his team locked in day-to-day and believes that they’ll do just that.
“You have to take it week by week and day by day,” Hartman said of his plan moving forward, “If you try to get into the playoffs in the first week, you’re probably not going to get in. For us, we have to fight the injury bug and come up with a good plan because everybody in this league can coach. It’ll be a fun challenge but we need to continue to improve every day. That’s our focus.”
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