The Midland High football team has options.
More so this season compared to the 2021 campaign.
That’s because head coach Thad Fortune, who was hired in the spring of 2021 and revamped the Bulldogs’ entire attack, had an offseason with his players.
In a traditional offense, that means getting players use to different terminology, workout routine and expectations.
For the Bulldogs, it meant getting up to speed on an offense they already were using but working hard to master.
Fortune runs the option and Midland High was limited in those last year.
But the seniors, led by quarterback Landry Walls, bought was Fortune was selling and did their best to learn the basics to help set up the underclassmen for this season and beyond.
“I can’t say enough about our seniors last year,” Fortune said. “They bought in and worked their tails to get up to speed.
“They laid a great foundation.”
Now it’s Year 2 and Midland High has its sights set on a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Fortune knows that in order to achieve that goal, the Bulldogs need solid leadership and he’s looking to senior quarterback Jake Cunningham to provide that.
Cunningham took over in the offseason, working through spring practices and the ECISD 7-on-7 league in June.
Now back at practice, Cunningham has been all the right things.
“He’s done a good job this offseason,” Fortune said. “He’s a good athlete and has worked really hard to learn and he’s done a lot of good things.”
Another good thing for the Bulldogs is the depth being built in key spots.
Sophomore Stroman Bridges is Cunningham’s backup and will see action on special teams while learning the intricate slight-of-hand needed to run the Bulldogs’ scheme.
“It’s a long-term process of building depth,” Fortune said. “A balance of keeping the numbers up, running a program and having expectations.
“It’s how to grow it and not sacrifice anything.”
Key to Midland High’s success will be the play of the offensive line, especially the trio in the middle.
Marvin Ramos at left guard, Jaime Davila at center and Jett Garcia at right guard will be in the thick of the action every snap, doing the dirty work needed to work the ball down the field in clock-eating drives.
The Bulldogs’ best defense is a consistent offense that gets three or more yards per snap to keep moving the chains.
In the end, it tires out opposing defenses and then suddenly wide receivers Jake Urias and Kyle Blanchard are behind the secondary for big plays.
“We’re not very experienced,” Fortune said. “Our room for error will be a little smaller.
“We have to execute, take care of the football and get defensive.”
On defense, Midland High will look to linebacker Turner Squire to set the tone, along with lineman Daniel Varela.
They’ll get help from defensive end Jayden Taylor and defensive tackle Amasyea Rollie.
Where the Bulldogs are suspect on defense, at least to start the season, is in the secondary where two sophomores and two juniors are going to get significant playing time.
“Those guys have really been flying around,” Fortune said. “Squire and Varela are setting the tone.
“On the back end, we have some young guys that are going to have to grow up and help us.
“They are guys that work really hard and improve every day.”
When all is said and done, however, the key to Midland High’s success is the Bulldogs themselves.
If they take care of the football, eat the clock with disciplined, punishing drives and finish in the end zone, the goal of ending the postseason drought should be attainable.
“That’s the challenge, as much as you’ve got to just really focus on what you can control,” Fortune said. “Everyone has been working hard all winter and into the summer.
“Eliminate mistakes when it comes to football games. The first thing is, don’t lose them; don’t make silly mistakes and playing disciplined football each week.”
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MIDLAND HIGH BULLDOGS
— COACHES —
>> Head coach: Thad Fortune.
>> Coach’s overall record: 2-8.
>> Coach’s record at school: 2-8.
>> Assistant coaches, duties: Kirk Thurman, assistant head coach/running backs; Stacey Martin, co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs; Eric Jonas, co-defensive coordinator/defensive line; Paul Martinez, offensive coordinator/offensive line; Hank Cunningham, wide receivers; Brian Cameron, special teams coordinator/linebackers; Mike Sadler, slot receivers; Brandon Smith, tight ends; Eric Chavez, defensive backs; Kyle Wolfle, cornerbacks; Chad Head, slot receivers; Chris Murry, linebackers.
— TEAM INFORMATION —
>> 2021 overall record: 2-8.
>> 2021 district record: 1-5 (Fifth).
>> Last district title: 1988.
>> Last playoff appearance: 2017.
>> Stadium name: Astound Broadband (8,000).
>> Base offense: Option.
>> Base defense: Odd.
— PLAYERS —
>> Returning lettermen: 20.
>> Returning starters: 5 (3 offense, 2 defense).
>> Key returners: Daniel Varela, 5-9, 200, Sr., DL; Turner Squire, 5-10, 185, Jr., LB; Jacob Urias, 5-9, 175, Sr., Slot; Brylee Perez, 5-10, 185, Jr., RB; Kyle Blanchard, 6-0, 200, Sr., Slot; Adam Alvarado, 6-1, 200, Jr., OL; Wyatt Krueger, 6-2, 195, Jr., TE; Jake Nava, 6-0, 175, Soph., CB.
>> Key newcomers: Jake Cunningham, 6-1, 195, Sr., QB; Stroman Bridgdes, 5-10, 175, Soph., QB/Ath; Mecky McCoy, 5-7, 170, Sr., RB; Elijah McCoy, 5-8, 175, Soph., RB; Jett Garcia, 6-1, 265, Soph., OL.