Ironmen snap Chiefs' eight-game winning streak
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Jackson takes advantage of McBride's injury, ends Logan's dreams of an undefeated season, 35-21
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor email@example.com
LOGAN — In opening their season with six-consecutive victories, the Logan Chieftains established a balanced, multi-dimensional offense that was just as effective on the ground as it was in the air.
But when one of those dimensions was taken away during Friday night’s Southeastern Ohio Athletic League football showdown with Jackson — senior running back Bryce McBride went down with a knee injury midway through the opening period — it changed the dynamics, and the visiting Ironmen took full advantage.
The Ironmen broke a 7-7 halftime deadlock with a pair of touchdowns less than three minutes apart in the third quarter and went on to earn a 35-21 victory in Logan Chieftain Stadium to end the Chiefs’ dreams of an undefeated season.
Logan (6-1 overall, 0-1 SEOAL), which entered Friday night ranked No. 7 in the state Associated Press Division II poll, had an eight-game winning streak dating back to late last season snapped.
Barring a monumental week-10 Gallipolis (0-7) upset of the Ironmen (6-1, 2-0), the Chieftains probably saw the SEOAL championship slip away as well.
Jackson rolled up 417 yards of total offense — running backs Blake McCoy and Collin Massie and quarterback Hunter Sexton combined to rush for 263 yards and score four touchdowns — did a great job keeping the ball away from the Logan offense (possessing the ball for more than 27 game minutes), and didn’t commit a single turnover after having given the ball away 17 times entering Friday night.
“What a great victory for our team,” said Jackson coach Andy Hall. “We knew going into this game it would be this type of game. It always is when we play Logan — it’s a great rivalry — we had to be prepared to play four quarters, and we did.
“We understood the magnitude of this game,” he added. “I thought our kids had a nice week of practice and our coaches did a great job on our game plan, special teams, offense and defense.”
Jackson took the lead when Sexton bulled his way up the middle to score from 16 yards out to cap off a 13-play, 88-yard drive early in the second quarter, and it stayed that way until the Chiefs put together an unbelievable nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive of their own in the final 90 seconds of the half.
On fourth and 10 from the Jackson 41-yard line, Logan quarterback Lane Little went deep for junior receiver Jenson Wallace. The ball was a bit underthrown and it looked like a Jackson defense back would either make an interception or bat the ball down, but Wallace somehow came away with the catch at the Jackson 9-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half.
Three plays later, Little hooked up with his favorite receiver, senior Isaiah Smith, on a 9-yard inside slant pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 9.8 seconds left in the half.
The Chiefs had momentum… but they couldn’t sustain it when the second half commenced.
As Logan coach Billy Burke said, it was a matter of not making plays when they were sorely needed.
“It seemed like we had guys in position... we have to make plays,” Burke said. “I told the kids after the game that you learn from your mistakes. You learn what didn’t work and then you have to make those corrections. (Sometimes you have to) learn on the fly a lot in this game.”
What both teams learned, however, was that Logan was a different team without McBride. He sustained an injury to his right knee — he blew out his left knee late last season — with a little more than six minutes left in the opening period.
Once McBride exited, Logan was forced to throw the ball — not necessarily a bad thing for the Chiefs, with Little, Smith, Wallace and company throwing and catching — but the Ironmen concentrated on completely stopping the Logan run. For the most part, they did just that.
“We shut the running game down. That was the key,” Hall said. “I hope the McBride kid is not hurt bad. He went out early, but they have other kids who can run it, too, and they still have that great offensive line.
“We knew we had to take something away from them,” he continued. “When you’re two-dimensional like they are, one of (those dimensions) has to go. You can’t stop both.”
Little, as a result, threw for 278 yards — Smith (nine catches for 116 yards) and Wallace (four receptions for 122) became the first receiving tandem in the history of Chieftain football to catch more than 100 yards’ worth of passes in the same game — but Jackson picked off two passes and Logan only ran the ball eight times in the second half. Four of them were by Little as the result of scrambles.
“I know their passing yards were up, but we made them throw on every down,” Hall said. “They made some good plays. The Smith kid is one heck of a receiver and (Wallace) made a couple really nice catches too (when) we were right there to make a catch or bat the ball down.
“Give them credit,” he added. “They didn’t stop playing, either. This game wasn’t in hand until about two minutes to go.”
“They played well and they played hard,” Burke said in praise of the Ironmen. “They were able to do some things to us. Not having Bryce, we were pretty one-dimensional… but having a kid like Lane, who can throw it to kids like Isaiah and Jenson, we went with what we were capable of doing. We had to get some more stops and create some field position. The difference in the game was we just couldn’t get stops.
“I can’t imagine how heartbroken (McBride) is not being able to be out there and battle with his buddies,” he added. “We were also going to use him a lot on defense tonight too, and use his strengths as a linebacker that we haven’t had all season. It didn’t happen.”
McBride would have been a huge asset on the defensive side of the ball. Jackson’s offensive line took over in the second half.
“They did,” Hall praised. “We really did a mixture of the two offenses that we’ve been working on all year and (wanted to) mix things up.”
The Ironmen didn’t come out Friday night’s game unscathed. They lost two key players as well — running back/defensive back Reagin Conley and RB/linebacker Raymon Potter — in the first half.
“Reagin Conley goes down early and we lose Raymon Potter. That hurt us in our running back-tight end combos,” Hall said, “but I thought Kendall Neal stepped up.
“Collin Massie really had to tote the rock tonight more than he’s used to doing, especially with Reagin Conley being out, and we were able to get the jet sweeps on the edge with Johnny (Farley) and Blake McCoy,” he added. “I thought Hunter played his best game of the year running the football and the play-action pass. He came out tonight and pulled a full game together both with his legs and with his arm, and up front I thought (the O-line) grew up tonight. And we didn’t turn the ball over tonight on offense.”
The Chiefs couldn’t make stops when Jackson took the second-half kickoff and drove 58 yards on seven plays to paydirt.
Neal made a key 20-yard reception on a third-and-9 play, then Massie scored from three yards out on the next snap for a 14-7 Jackson edge with 8:05 left in the third period.
After a quick Logan three-and-out, McCoy took a handoff up the middle, juked past a pair of Logan defenders, and cut down the right sideline for a back-breaking 50-yard TD run and a 21-7 lead with 5:15 left in the third stanza.
The short-handed Chiefs — trailing by double figures for the first time this season — dug deep and rallied on the next series.
Aided by a Jackson pass interference penalty — which actually saved about a 35-yard Logan gain — Little connected with Wallace on a 47-yard bomb to the Jackson 4-yard line. Two plays later, 20 seconds into the final period, Corey Wilson took the ball into the end zone off the left edge to pull the Chiefs back within a touchdown.
Even without McBride, it’s a good idea for opposing teams to keep the Logan offense on the sidelines… and that’s just what Jackson did on the ensuing series, grinding out a 78-yard, 11-play touchdown drive that chewed up 6:32 of valuable clock time.
The series almost never occurred, however. Facing third-and-4 from the Jackson 26, Sexton went back to pass and Neal was inexplicably, absolutely wide open about 30 yards away. They made connections for a monumental 46-yard gain.
Jackson scored when Cameron Williams — a transfer student from Wellston playing his first game of the season for the Red and White — caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Sexton in the back left corner of the end zone.
Williams will have to have surgery to repair a knee injury at the end of the season.
“Cameron Williams got a chance to play, on a knee that’s bone-on-bone right now, waiting to have surgery and he’s going to gut it out,” Hall said. “Boy, did he have some fun tonight playing defense.
“I told him he wasn’t going to play any offense — he hasn’t got any offensive reps in the three weeks — and so we just told him who to block,” he added. “On that touchdown catch he said ‘what do I do?’ And I said ‘run a flag route.’ He said ‘I can do that,’ and he was open for the touchdown.”
The Chiefs again would not quit, however. A 38-yard pass play — on which Smith broke two tackles and got deep into Jackson territory — put Logan in scoring position.
On fourth-and-5, Little scrambled all over the place in the backfield, then turned upfield, got a couple great blocks and completed a 19-yard scoring run with 3:41 remaining. Stu Harper’s third PAT kick pulled Logan within 28-21.
But Logan was unable to recover an onside kick and Jackson went 49 yards on six plays — getting 29 yards from McCoy on a great individual running effort — and scored the clinching touchdown on a Massie 2-yard run with 1:42 remaining. Sheldon Moore converted his fifth-straight extra-point kick to round out the scoring.
Jackson’s Rhys Jones picked off a Little pass in the end zone in the game’s final minute to secure the victory.
“They’re a good team,” Burke said of the Ironmen. “It’s quite a rivalry and our kids took (the loss) hard, but we have to learn from it. It’s one loss in a long season. Sometimes (a) loss along the way kind of opens your eyes. I don’t know what kind of impact that will have, but we have to get better from it.”
Their perfect record no longer intact, the Chiefs now hop from the frying pan into the fire.
They have to make a trip to the capital city next week to face perennial state power Columbus DeSales (6-1), whose only loss was to Lancaster in its season opener. The Gales were unbeaten until last night, when they lost in double-overtime to OCC rival Gahanna, 28-21.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to have be even more assignment-oriented (against DeSales) than we were this evening,” Burke said. “We have to execute and hopefully we’ll have everybody healthy.
“We know we can score and can do things when we have the football,” he added. “Thing is, we have to give the football back to our offense. If our offense can’t be on the field, we can’t score. We have to get more stops, and that’s all there is to it.”