Early-season unbeatens set to square off
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Chieftains and Marauders put identical 2-0 records on line Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — Being 2-0 thus far on the season — as opposed to being 0-2 entering week three a year ago — admittedly presents somewhat of a conundrum for the Logan Chieftains.
Bottom line: it’s all about taking care of business regardless what the won-loss record is.
“I suppose being 2-0 is the same as being 0-2 in the respect that at 0-2 we don’t want guys to get down and lose sight of the next week,” says Logan coach Billy Burke, “and at 2-0 we don’t want to be overconfident and think we’re better than we are and that don’t have to work hard anymore.
“It’s great to be 2-0, but at the same time — and I’m sure most coaches are like this — you have to find a way to make sure that everybody stays focused on the task at hand,” he added.
This week, that task is the Meigs Marauders, who are also 2-0 entering Friday night’s fray in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Game time — barring another lengthy delay due to the weather — is 7 p.m.
The Chiefs have every right to be excited about their 2-0 start, especially considering they scored 82 points in their first two games last fall and were 0-2 entering week three at Meigs.
“I’m pretty happy with where are and our approach to practice and our approach to each game,” Burke said. “We handled the late start (the kickoff for last Friday’s game was delayed nearly two hours due to weather issues) really well last week. That’s a credit to our senior leadership.”
With the Logan offense hogging the ball — time of possession was a lopsided 24:01 to 9:23 at one point late in the third quarter — the Chiefs were able to safely rotate many of their two-way players and keep them fresh. Twenty seconds into the final quarter, the Vikings had just two first downs and 62 total yards.
“That’s our philosophy, to make sure that we maintain control of the clock,” Burke noted. “That helps with field position, keeping guys fresh because we can be a little more deliberate with how we rotate guys on offense than defense.
“As long as we have the ball, theoretically, it’s difficult for an opponent to score,” he added. “We can make sure guys get fresh on defense so we don’t have letdowns or errors because of being fatigued.”
The Chiefs also made an adjustment defensively, putting do-everything senior Tommy Hayden at strong side linebacker, where he had a monster game… 11 tackles (four solo), two quarterback sacks and one tackle for loss.
“I think we found a home for Tommy,” Burke praised. “Tommy could probably play just about every position on offense or defense and he played well enough to be one of our captains (for this week’s Meigs game). He stepped up and filled in and seemed to be a natural out there… he really did everything we want a sam linebacker (a versatile backer for both run and pass coverage) to do, and that made our defense better.
“Tommy doesn’t know any better than to just play hard. Not hustling is not in his DNA,” he continued. “When you have guys like that around, it’s a little bit more visible when they’re playing on their feet than with their hand on the ground as he’s accustomed to. When he’s on his feet, guys can see the raw hustle that it takes to be successful. He’s even made the comment that it’s a lot easier on your feet (because) you don’t have to bang into somebody every single play.”
Scoring 27 unanswered points — 20 of them coming during an eight-minute first-half stretch in which the Vikings never snapped the ball once on offense — helped the Chiefs keep some of their two-way players off the field most of the night on defense.
“If we can not play our best running back (Bryce McBride) both ways and if we can not play our quarterback (Lane Little) both ways, and play everybody else on defense, that’s a recipe for success in most coaches’ eyes,” Burke said. “At this point, we’re able to do that.”
After allowing 49 points to Athens in the season opener, the Chiefs tackled well against Teays Valley and had a better understanding of what they were doing defensively.
“Kids can play faster and more confident when they know exactly what to do,” Burke noted, “and part of that (is) knowing what to do (after) never been in this situation before.
“We have two Friday night games under our belt and we now have a lot of game footage to show the kids,” he continued. “A lot of times when we coach them up it’s hard for kids to understand and buy in unless they actually see it, so now we’ve got a couple instances where they can see on film.”
Burke offered an example.
Defensive back “Brendan Karns came up a couple times and he was in the force position — that means when the ball is on the edge, his job is to turn it back to the teeth of the defense,” Burke began, “and then there’s defensive linemen who are coached to be straight down the line.
“A lot of times in high school, those defensive linemen drift too far up the field, so as they come down the line they end up behind the play,” he continued. “Kory Henthorne made two great plays, Brendan forced it back and Kory was straight down the line and made the plays right on the line of scrimmage, just like we would want.
“Those were things we had to see on film in order for the kids to really understand the concept behind that’s where you fit on defense on a perimeter run.”
The Logan coaching staff has seen enough film on the Marauders to know they will be a tough opponent Friday night. Logan rolled to a running-clock 55-7 victory when the two teams met for the first time in 32 years last season at Meigs.
“They are a solid team with two pretty solid wins,” Burke stated. “Offensively they give you a lot of different looks and they have some talent at quarterback and running back. They’re big up front. Defensively they seem to want to get after you a little bit. This will be a solid Meigs team that comes in to play us.
“The style they play is a little bit indicative of this day and age,” he continued. “Meigs no-huddles to some degree and they spread the ball around and throw the quick screens.”
The looks the Marauders show have some similarities to both Athens — a yearly Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division foe — and the Chieftains. And that’s not unusual.
“That happens sometimes when you play the same opponent year after year and you see a lot of things on film,” Burke pointed out. “I’ve seen some things that we’ve done offensively that Meigs is doing. Whether or not they got it from us, football is a game of borrowing things from other coaches and trying to see how they might fit into your own scheme and program.
“Playing defense is hard this day and age because there’s so much variety to what you have to defend,” he added. “You don’t always get the looks that you want to see that your team needs to practice.”
The Chiefs still have a couple players banged up and a couple others fighting illness, but all in all are not in bad shape two weeks into the regular season. Burke noted that senior linebacker Domonic Micochero, who missed the first two games, may get to play this week.
“Bottom line is that if someone can’t go, the next guy up has to step in and is going to be expected to perform just like he would if he were a full-time starter,” Burke said.
Even with so many kids playing on both sides of the football, the Chiefs have thus far shown they are in pretty good shape to go a full 48 minutes.
“A lot of things were different the other night,” Burke said. “Luckily, with the game time being a little bit later, the weather was a little more cooperative… and at the same time, our coaches have done a good job of making sure they identify guys they can get breaks at different points.
“Guys who don’t get breaks, like the Isaiah Smiths and Jenson Wallaces, those guys seem to be in good enough shape where they are capable of” playing long stretches, he added. “They are physically ready to go and don’t need much of a break.”