Expect to see plenty of new faces as Chieftains open a new season
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A lot of young, inexperienced athletes will be playing on both sides of the ball
That’s what happens when you graduate 18 seniors (and, all told, lose 20 lettermen) from a team that went 8-2 a year ago.
It was a fact that few of the current Chiefs were going to play ahead of the bulk of last year’s seniors, making it harder for them to get varsity playing experience. That’s not an unusual occurrence.
Logan’s lack of experience showed in its final scrimmage last Friday night, when Sheridan scored 40 points in the game’s first 15 minutes and went on to win by a 54-9 count.
“A high school kid worries about his opponent’s height, weight, speed, strength; he worries about every single thing he doesn’t have any control over,” Burke said. “But what do you have control over? You have control over performing your job… but we get wrapped up in those things, and part of that is being in awe of the environment (and the) life situation.”
It all comes down to players not getting “so wrapped up in the things I don’t have control over,” he added.
Here’s a look at the Chiefs on offense, defense and special teams:
Changes abound on offense.
At quarterback, junior Brady Walsh (6-0, 185 pounds) takes over for record-setting QB Lane Little; last year’s second receiver, senior Jenson Wallace (6-1, 165) becomes the primary pass-catching threat with the graduation of 1,000-yard receiver Isaiah Smith, and several running backs will take over for four-year letterman Bryce McBride.
“The biggest thing people will see differently from a year ago is that Brady is not a drop-back quarterback like Lane was,” Burke said. “A lot will be traditional passes, but also (figuring out) what ways we can get guys matched up with the skill that they have to try to exploit a mismatch against an opponent. We probably aren’t as skilled as protecting our pocket for our quarterback as we were a year ago with the offensive line.
“We’ll feature some more play-action passes and we’ll feature some more quarterback runs,” he added. “Brady’s a big, strong kid who can withstand a lot of physical play. Brady’s come along and he’s getting better each and every day.
Walsh — who threw just one pass last season, when he was a tight end — will be depended upon to be an accurate, ball-control QB who throws a dozen or so passes a game. He’ll be backed up by senior Colton Dixon (5-9, 130) and freshman Braeden Spatar (5-7, 160).
“We’re probably deeper at running back. We’ll feature more two-back personnel and try to establish the run,” Burke noted. “It’s always important that a strong running game can help dictate the pace of the game and control the clock against an opponent. That’s what you’ll see out of us.”
Sophomore Preston Yates (5-10, 180) and senior Jeremy Minor (5-11, 170) are the team’s top “A” backs (halfbacks), with sophomores Jeromy Weaver (5-11, 170) and Shane Souders (5-10, 175) the “B” backs (fullbacks).
“Preston Yates might be the number one running back, and Jeremy is certainly there,” Burke pointed out. “The biggest thing is consistency. They’re both pretty darn good, but we need a guy who we know what we’re going to get each and every single play. Isaac Baron (6-0, 180, junior) is there too as an ‘A’ back.
“At the fullback position we have Shane Souders and Jeromy Weaver, so we have some guys who we can do some things with at running back,” he added. “Did we like the guy (McBride) we had last year at running back? Absolutely. Were we scared that we might not be as deep as we wanted to be? Absolutely. But it’s the dynamic of our team: we’re fortunate enough to have a few more running backs than we’ve had in the past.”
Seniors Wallace and Riley Nelson (6-0, 170) are the go-to guys at receiver.
“We’ll still have the big-play capability out of Jenson and Riley that we’ve always had,” Burke noted, “but it’s a matter of finding the best way to get them the football.”
A lot of that will be the responsibility of a rebuilt offensive line, which is anchored by senior Kory Henthorne (6-4, 265), a two-year letterman and a collegiate Division I recruit.
“Obviously Kory Henthorne has been a staple the past couple years and he will be again this year,” Burke said. “Kamryn Carter has a year’s worth of experience and is going to be a solid guy on our offensive line. Dakota Stiffarm will be playing a lot; Clay Risch is a guy who works extremely hard and tries to do everything exactly right — his only (drawback) is the fact he’s a sophomore and has never played varsity football — T.J. Meyer is on the offensive line, and at tight end we’re looking at Tommy Breining (6-4, 155, senior), Cymon Rooker (5-11, 190, junior) and another sophomore in Sam Hall (6-4, 175).”
Also in the receiving mix are sophomore Landon Little (5-10, 140), junior Casey Heft (5-11, 140) and freshman Charlie Kline (6-2, 165).
Offensive coordinator Brian Breining “would feel confident about Landon Little and Casey Heft playing receiver, and freshman Charlie Kline is very gifted athletically,” Burke said. “We feel confident that Charlie could get some playing time.”
Kline caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from fellow freshman Spatar in Logan’s scrimmage at Sheridan and also kicked the ensuing extra point.
“I knew going into the season we would be pretty talented in the skill positions,” Burke said. “We have probably most of our experience there being Jenson Wallace and Riley Nelson, and Brady having a whole year playing at receiver last year.”
Dement (5-9, 195, junior) is at center, Henthorne and Carter (5-11, 280, junior) are the guards, and the tackles are Stiffarm (6-0, 220, junior) and Meyer (6-1, 220, senior). Wright (6-0, 180, senior) and Risch (5-11, 175, sophomore) are also in the O-line mix.
“We have some guys who have moved positions,” Burke noted. “Tomas Wright and T.J. Meyer have moved from tight end position and linebacker position to interior linemen, and I think we’re going to get a lot of production out of those two on the line. The move by those two to sacrifice for the greater good of the team has been very helpful. I wouldn’t say surprising, but yet it’s been a pleasant surprise. They are absolutely willing to do whatever needs to be done.”
More often than not, rebuilding the O-line usually means doing the same thing on defense, and such is the case for the ’16 Chiefs.
“That’s really high school football,” Burke said. “Not everybody’s ready for Friday night action, so your same kids from the offensive line are going to be on the defensive line. Our job as coaches is to find creative ways to make sure guys get a break so that he’s at his best and get some miles out of a sub.
“Tomas Wright’s going to step in there either as a nose tackle or defensive tackle,” he continued. “Dakota Dement is playing as well as anyone could ask him to, especially on the defensive line. We have a hard time blocking him (in practice) and we know teams we face will struggle as well. Kory Henthorne can play about any position. We thought coming into the season Dakota Stiffarm would be more of a defensive guy, but he’s done a decent job offensively as well. T.J. Meyer’s going to play some interior line, and Kamryn Carter had a lot of experience last year.”
There will also be some newbies alone the line.
“The two names people may not recognize from last year are Cymon Rooker, who’s probably going to be on the defense line/standup linebacker, as well as Sam Hall. He’s done a great job in the past couple scrimmages on the defensive line,” Burke pointed out.
While stopping short of calling the linebacker positions question marks, Burke stressed those spots will be vital to any success the defense has this fall.
“Linebacker is our wild card right now,” Burke revealed. “If we can get some real production out of our linebackers, I feel pretty good about our defense. Jeromy Weaver is a sophomore and has done a great job, Jeremy Minor played linebacker last year and he’s come a long way this year and has made some plays. Shane Souders is another sophomore who is learning to play the position.
“A guy we moved to outside linebacker based upon his play in the Bloom-Carroll scrimmage is Tyler Cummin (5-9, 155, sophomore),” he added. “He’s a backup safety, but when he got in the game he made some things happen and made a bunch of tackles. This guy’s got to get on the field somewhere, so we had to find a spot for him and we moved him to our sam linebacker and he made some plays against Circleville.”
Yates and junior Garrett Baker (5-9, 190) are also in the linebacker mix.
The Chiefs have some experience back in their defensive backfield.
“We have our corners from a year ago, Jenson and Riley, but Casey Heft is very capable of playing corner or even rotating some at safety so we can develop some depth there,” Burke revealed. “Brady’s playing some safety, Colton Dixon at safety (and) Charlie Kline at safety. Landon Little could come in and probably play some safety even though we feature him at corner right now. Aaron Jackson (5-10, 140, senior) has done a really nice job at corner as well.
“I wouldn’t say our scheme is going to be dramatically different than a year ago,” he added. “Again, I think it’s the linebacker position that will make or break us. We struggled at linebacker last year and had a lot of different starting combinations over 10 games. We just couldn’t find guys who solidified those positions. Hopefully things are different this year.”
While the kicking game hasn’t been one of Logan’s strong points in recent years, Burke and his staff have been creative in finding ways to make it work. For example, Logan recovered five onside kickoffs last season as the result of some funky kickoff formations.
“Brady has looked pretty good kicking some extra points and Charlie Kline’s done a good job,” Burke noted. “T.J. Meyer has a strong leg and is a very gifted punter, and Kyle Arnett (5-10, 150, sophomore) has done a nice job as well.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the legs, so to say, to put the ball as deep as we’d like,” he added.
Meyer returns as the team’s punter and will also kick off. Wright and Carter could serve as snappers for placekicks, with either Dixon and Cummin holding, and Wallace and Nelson are among those slated to return punts and kickoffs.
“Let’s take defense, for example,” Burke said. “With teams in this day and age, if you want to hold a team under 17 points — which used to be a goal back when I started coaching — that’s hard to do with the way offenses are these days. I guess I never get real wrapped up in goals other than are (the players) performing the best they possibly can.
“If we’re going the best we can, and we come out with a win, fantastic,” he added. “If we’re doing the best we can and we simply can’t beat the team across from us because they’re bigger, faster and stronger — and they’re good, too — I’m actually okay with that as well as long as we’re playing as well as we’re capable of playing. That’s a goal I’ve had with every single team I’ve coached.”
Look for the season debut of “Chieftain Game Night Countdown” both online and in Thursday’s edition of The Logan Daily News, the ONLY media outlet that covers all Logan Chieftains and Logan Lady Chiefs sports.