Chiefs end season with shutout victory
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Smith scores four TDs, sets single-season receiving yardage record as Logan blanks Warren 39-0; Logan misses out on DII playoff berth
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — As they go through life, members of the Logan Chieftains football team will deal with difficult situations and tough breaks that will make the disappointment of missing out on the 2015 high school playoffs pale by comparison.
But, right now, it hurts.
The Chiefs sputtered a little in the early stages before finally rolling past winless Warren 39-0 in their season finale Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Their final 8-2 record, however, won’t be enough for an 11th game. Mansfield Senior’s 24-20 victory over Mansfield Madison officially eliminated the Purple & White from Division II playoff consideration.
Either Mansfield Senior or Massillon Washington will take the final Region 5 playoff berth later today. Massillon Washington gets in by beating ancient rival Canton McKinley; if not, Mansfield Senior lands the final spot.
The last time Logan went 8-2 and failed to make the playoffs was in 2005, exactly 10 years earlier.
Meanwhile, four Logan foes are on their way to the playoffs, including two teams — Teays Valley (8-2) and Shadyside (4-6) in divisions II and VII, respectively — the Chiefs defeated earlier in the season. Yes, Shadyside (which beat River Valley 14-7 last night) will get in with a 4-6 record.
Such are the tough breaks of today for this group of kids… and, for that matter, their coaches.
There’s no Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championship for the Chiefs, either. The Jackson Ironmen scored 58 first-half points on their way to routing Gallia Academy 64-20 to take their second-consecutive SEOAL crown.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of. The two teams that beat us (Jackson and Columbus DeSales, who are both going to the playoffs as well) have a combined two losses, and that’s nothing to hang our heads about,” Burke stated. “But it is disappointing because that was clearly a goal these guys had.
“It’s one of those life lessons that you learn: sometimes you work your tail off and you do everything right and it doesn’t go your way,” he continued. “It’s ultimately how you respond to those situations.”
It was tough for Burke to see, through misty eyes, the core group of his first Logan team finish their high school careers without that much sought-after playoff berth. They were sophomores when he became head coach in 2013, and in three seasons together they put together a solid 19-11 record.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I were a player, I’d want to be a member of this group,” Burke said. “I don’t know how else to compliment these guys more than that.
“When you coach, these are the type of guys you want to coach,” he added. “They express it in different ways, but they come to work with great attitudes. I told them before the game I appreciate the fact (they have) done everything we’ve asked (them) to do. That makes coaching fun. They never made it seem like a job to come to work and deal with things… you just get to coach a bunch of great young men.”
Two of those outgoing seniors either set more records or added to those they’ve already etched in the books.
Wide receiver Isaiah Smith caught 10 passes for 139 yards and three more touchdowns from fellow senior Lane Little, and Smith also had a first-half 54-yard pick-six interception return.
Smith became the first player in more than a century of Logan Chieftain football to break the 1,000-yard receiving barrier in a single season. His final catch of the night — a 15-yarder during running-clock time in the final period — gave him a school record 1,004 receiving yards on the season.
He set the school record for career TD receptions (28) and added to his single-season record with 18 receiving six-pointers. He also owns school records for making a catch in 26 consecutive games as well as for having seven 100-plus-yard
receiving games this season and 10 for his career.
But when asked if he would give each and every one of those touchdowns back for a chance to play in the playoffs, his answer was exactly what you would expect from a team captain and a team player who has improved by leaps and bounds the last two seasons.
“Yes sir, I would,” Smith said. “I’m glad I got the yardage and the touchdowns that I did, but playing another game, I’d definitely do anything to do that.”
That said, however, he also took a realistic approach to having played the final game of his prep career.
“I’m not as sad as I thought I’d be,” he said. “We had such a great season, so I don’t see why I should be sad. When I look back, all I see is good things. We brought the (winning) tradition back and (now) the underclassmen (need to) keep it going.
“I didn’t even know I was close to getting a thousand yards before coach said ‘get over here, you have 20 more yards to go,’ “ Smith added with a smile. “He puts me in the game and I drop one and I’m thinking ‘oh, boy, here we go.’
“Putting all the work in over the years has really paid off. The upperclassmen I had my sophomore year set good examples of working hard and it would pay off in the end. I think this year as seniors we set a good example of that for the underclassmen too.”
Little’s 30 TD passes are a single-season record; his 44 career TD throws are second only to Patrick Angle (51), and his 2,140 season passing yards are third on the all-time list. He passed for at least 100 yards in all 10 games this fall and in 13 consecutive games dating back to last season, the second-longest such streak in school history.
He, Smith and their senior teammates dominated a Warren (0-10) team that finished without a victory for the third time in school history. The Warriors were shut out six times and scored only 34 points.
Logan led just 18-0 at halftime, however, struggling to get going on Senior Night against an opponent that managed just 118 total yards and eight first downs and came close to scoring just once.
“When the game’s not as big as you would like for it to be, sometimes it’s hard to get into the rhythm of the game,” Burke said. “We regrouped at halftime and came out and finished the game the way they should.”
Senior Corey Wilson broke a 36-yard run, and fellow senior Colton Stilwell had a 28-yard burst, as the Chiefs drove the opening kickoff 77 yards and scored in nine plays, with Wilson tallying on a 1-yard run.
Then, after Logan’s Jeremy Minor recovered a Warren fumble, Little connected with Smith in the back of the end zone on a 31-yard scoring pass to make it 12-0 with less than six minutes having elapsed in the first quarter.
Smith then picked off a Bryce Gandee pass at the Logan 46-yard line and outraced the Warriors to the end zone to make it 18-0 with 8:45 left in the second period.
The Warriors then embarked on their lone scoring threat. Aided by a pair of Logan fourth-down penalties — one of them a running into the kicker miscue on a punt — the Warriors drove from their own 30 to the Logan 6, possessing the ball for 15 plays and 5:49 of clock time, but came up empty on three incomplete passes.
Senior Bryan Black later blocked a Warren punt and the Chiefs were able to drive as close as the Warren 18 in the final seconds of the half but misfired on an end-around fourth-down pass as time expired.
Logan finally broke the game open late in the third period when Little and Smith teamed up on touchdown passes of nine and 33 yards within 68 seconds of one another — they hooked up on 18 touchdown passes this season — with the second score set up on Riley Nelson’s team-leading fifth interception of the season.
And the Little family got a big memory to last a lifetime when, on the final drive, Lane completed a 5-yard pass to his younger brother, freshman Landon.
Stilwell scored on a 10-yard run in the dying seconds — the final 14-plus minutes were played under the running-clock rule for a 30-point score differential — and Stu Harper kicked his third extra point.
All 39 Logan points were scored by seniors. How appropriate.
Injured senior Bryce McBride also took a much-deserved bow, coming out for the first offensive snap of the game (he didn’t touch the ball or go near the actual play) and then going back to the sidelines to receive congratulations from teammates for a great career.
McBride had 1,056 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns before his season came to an end in week seven against Jackson as the result of a knee injury.
“What greater role models… what greater road map for those young guys to observe and try to emulate?” Burke said of his seniors. “And your job (as underclassmen) is to try and be better. That’s every group’s job, to try and be better than the group that was ahead of them.”
As much as he would liked to have seen the 2015 season continue, Burke knows that it’ll just be a matter of time before starting preparations for 2016.
“We had a lot of playing experience (with these seniors), and it was special for them,” Burke said, “but for the rest of us who remain, the train’s going to pull out of the station and we have to get ready for next season… and we have a nice road map in place to follow.”