Senior Night game likely Chiefs’ season finale
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — This season’s Logan Chieftains football Senior Night will likely be more bittersweet than most others.
Friday night, Logan’s 19 seniors will clasp hands and take the traditional post-game Senior Walk across the Logan Chieftain Stadium field one last time after leading the Purple & White to Logan’s best football record in six years.
The Chiefs, with their post-season playoff aspirations hanging by a fraying thread, host the winless Warren Warriors in Friday’s regular-season finale.
Kickoff for Logan’s last home game is 7 p.m.
Even if the Purple & White (7-2 overall, 1-1 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League) win — the Warriors (0-9, 0-2) have lost 17 consecutive games and 23 of their last 25 — a home playoff game is totally out of the question, and their chances of achieving a league title and/or a post-season Division II playoff berth are remote at best.
For Logan to achieve a share of the league title, Gallipolis (1-8, 1-1) would have to pull off an earth-shaking upset at Jackson (8-1, 2-0) in order to divide the conference title three ways.
And to sneak into the playoffs, the Purple & White need just about every possible scenario to go their way this weekend… with one of those scenarios being, again, an unlikely Gallipolis upset of Jackson (please see related information in this week’s Chieftain Notebook).
Seniors Bryce McBride, Kyle Jacobsen, Domonic Micochero, Brendan Karns, Lane Little, Isaiah Smith, Corey Wilson, Ben Nihiser, Colton Stilwell, Bryan Black, Brandon Skinner, Josh Rardain, Eddie Lanning, Tommy Hayden, Zac Buckley, Christian Phillips, Cody Stamper-Norman, Tyler Blount and Stu Harper will be honored in Senior Night festivities.
However, McBride is out until wrestling season with a knee injury and Skinner won’t be allowed to play as the result of a suspension after he and juniors Kory Henthorne and Kyle Spelock were ejected from last Friday’s 48-13 win at Gallipolis. However, due to a recent change of OHSAA rules, they will be permitted to be with their teammates on the sidelines in street clothes.
So, when you add it all together, Senior Night will indeed be more bittersweet than usual when a senior-dominated team that should finish with a solid 8-2 record bids adieu to Logan Chieftain Stadium.
“Every Senior Night is bittersweet,” said third-year head coach Billy Burke. “Kids work for that senior year and hope things fall in place for them. Then (the season) comes to an end and you never get the opportunity to do this again as a group.
“Some kids will go on and play at the next level,” he added, “but it’s always bittersweet. That’s what you dream of. Once you’re done you never get that opportunity (as a group) again.”
The Chiefs aren’t looking past the Warriors — a team that’s been outscored 366-34 and has been shut out in five of nine games — because there likely won’t be anything to look past them to other than winter and spring sports seasons.
“I don’t know how much we’ve really thought about Warren as much as we want to ensure we do the game justice,” Burke said. “If it’s your last home game, then play like it’s your last home game no matter what the scenario or situation is. Hopefully we’ll get in a lot of seniors who haven’t got a lot of playing time, seniors who have meant a lot to the program, some opportunities to get some reps that they didn’t necessarily get during the year.
“I would liked for us to have been in position to give more guys opportunities on Friday night, but it didn’t work out that way,” he continued. “Who would have thought we had a bunch of running clocks (games with a second-half score differential of 30 points or more) last year and we’ve only had one to date (this season) with the caliber of our offense? We needed to get more stops on defense.”
Obviously, the Chiefs have hung their collective helmets on offense this fall.
With quarterback Little and wide receiver Smith combining on 15 touchdown passes — Little now owns the school single-season record for TD passes (27) and Smith has the record for most TD receptions in a single season — and McBride rushing for more than 1,000 yards before being hurt in week seven, Logan averages more than 34 points and 392 yards per game.
However, the defense has relinquished 25.4 points and just a tick under 330 yards per game. Last week, offense-challenged Gallipolis stung the Chiefs for a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes — two plays that ultimately accounted for 78 of the Blue Devils’ 130 total yards — before Logan scored the final 35 points.
“That’s been the story of our defense,” Burke said. “We have to put several plays in a row together to get a team off the field. We let them convert a couple big plays on third down.
“Sometimes you get caught watching the play and (the Blue Devils) kept playing and found somebody wide open,” he added. “But other than that I was pretty happy with the way we played defensively.”
Whereas the Chieftains needed just 25 minutes and 10 seconds to score five touchdowns in going on that game-ending 35-0 run last week, Warren has scored just five touchdowns all season.
“We’ve seen them look a little like Gallia, and then we’ve seen them get in the ‘I’ and straight-run the football,” Burke said of the Warriors. “We’ve seen them try to pound the ball in the running game, but they probably want to spread it out and play that style.”
If Friday night is indeed the Chiefs’ final game — and the last high school game for all those seniors — it is a team that should be celebrated. But it also can’t help but be a painful night, too.
“It’s tough (because) we had such high expectations,” Burke said. “Don’t get me wrong; if we win this game (and don’t make the playoffs) we finish 8-2 and that’s a pretty successful season. Most years 8-2 gets you in the playoffs… but our kids had higher expectations than 8-2.
“But it’s like last week (when the three players were ejected) when there’s some unforeseen circumstance (where) you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and things don’t work out in your favor,” he added.
The officials ejected Skinner and Henthorne on a rulebook call because they were coming onto the field while an altercation (involving Spelock) was in progress on the opposite sideline… but they were just coming onto the Memorial Field turf to get ready to play defense and barely went halfway across the field.
That was the frustrating part for Burke, who told the officials they were going to end those players’ seasons (due to mandated OHSAA one-game suspensions) on a technicality.
All three are also subject to an extra game as per Logan High School rules that match the length of an OHSAA suspension… which, in this case, would spill over into the next sport each athlete plays this school year or into next football
season. Skinner wrestles and Henthorne plays basketball.
“That’s one of the lessons learned in this game,” Burke said. “They will be better young men for having participated in high school football. Breaks don’t always go your way, so it’s how you respond.”
The two teams who have beaten the Chiefs this season — Jackson and Columbus St. Francis DeSales — have clinched Division III Region 9 playoff berths and could conceivably face each another in a neutral-site regional semifinal (week 12) or regional championship (week 13) game in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
For the Chiefs — and Chieftain Nation — that would be both intriguing and gut-wrenching at the same time.
“When we look back, we probably beat every team we were supposed to beat (but are) kicking ourselves because we could have come out with that win against Jackson and then (lost to) DeSales,” Burke said. “But we knew (going in) those were, number one, a league championship game (Jackson) and, number two, those were playoff games. We needed to play a little better to get those wins.”
Asked what he will remember most about his 2015 Chieftains, Burke monetarily grew silent before speaking in a reverent tone.
“I look at how our offensive and defensive linemen came to work every single day with energy and passion and enjoyed working together,” Burke began. “I look at the leadership that Isaiah finally took hold of this season; he was always a kind of a ‘lead-by-example’ guy. The passion and energy that Lane competed with. The quiet storm of Bryce McBride, who is as tough as nails and just showed up and worked and worked and worked. Things out of his control (injuries) kept him down, but if he could control that he’d be right there with (his teammates).
“I look at Brendan Karns and Domonic Micochero, guys who came to work every single day and did their job on defense,” he continued. “Hopefully things like that rub off (underclassmen) for years to come.
“That’s what you want out of a senior class — to give their best — and I believe they did that. They represented themselves and their families and the program well. This is a group that we, as coaches, would love to have been part of as a player as well.”