Wipe the slate clean: New season starts Friday
- By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
“If we will execute our job, and do what we’re supposed to do, I’ll let the physical ability of our opponent versus the physical ability of us let itself play out... you never, never want to allow yourself to get beat when you’re making mistakes.” — Logan coach Billy Burke
LOGAN — After experiencing struggles in their three pre-season scrimmages, the Logan Chieftains need to bring lessons learned to the table when they open their football season Friday night against Dublin Jerome.
So far as those three practice games go, it’s kind of like the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?... where the tagline is “the points don’t matter.”
Fourth-year Logan coach Billy Burke knows he has a young, inexperienced team (12 seniors, nine returning lettermen) that needed all the repetitions it could get during practice games with Bloom-Carroll, Circleville and Sheridan.
If last Friday’s OHSAA Jamboree scrimmage with Sheridan had been a regular-season game, the second half would have been played with a running clock due to the 30-point-differential rule after the Generals took a 40-0 halftime lead. But neither Burke nor Sheridan coach Paul Culver III wanted to do that in order to get their players some extra snaps on both sides of the ball.
“We just have to keep working on getting better at understanding the scheme and what we have to do to execute our job,” Burke said earlier this week. “The more repetitions that you get, the better you get. Like the old saying goes, ‘you get 10,000 repetitions, you become an expert at something.’ Well, we’re not close to 10,000 yet.
“We always find things on film that you didn’t know happened during the game,” he continued. “A little correction here, a little correction there (and) we could have an offensive play that was an no-gainer that could have been a big gain for us if one kid would have done his job the way he’s been coached.”
With their current lack of varsity experience, it’s going to be that way most of the season until the Chiefs get some games and several hundred repetitions under their collective belts.
“Part of the reason that doesn’t happen is that kids with limited experience get distracted by their opponent — and what I mean by distracted is ‘I’m kind of tired, it’s my first time playing, that kid’s big, or they’re fast, or things aren’t going right’,” Burke noted.
“Defensively, the same thing’s true,” he added. Against Sheridan “we had a couple times where a guy didn’t run a stunt that he was supposed to run, which meant he was kind of in the way of one of his teammates, and it took us out of position to make the play. A couple times on that quarterback (Dylan Dupler, who ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more) we had the right call and we would have been there (to make the play) had we executed.”
For a team just getting its feet wet when it comes to varsity football, playing a Division I foe — the only one on their 2016 schedule — right off the bat isn’t exactly ideal, but it is what it is.
Dublin Jerome, which started the 2015 season with four losses in its first five games, swept its final five outings to tie Westerville Central for the Ohio Capital Conference Cardinal Division championship. The Celtics missed the DI playoffs at 6-4.
“They have a wide-open passing attack,” Burke revealed. “They probably look pretty similar to Athens a year ago. I don’t believe they’ll be able to have the capability to go with the same tempo that Athens did a year ago (when) Athens was getting plays off in 10 seconds. Dublin Jerome won’t look like that.
“Dublin Jerome has a new quarterback this year,” he added. “They really featured their quarterback running the football last year. I don’t know that their quarterback’s going to run it as much, but they are pretty athletic at receiver and are pretty athletic on defense. I think they’ve replaced a few kids on their offensive and defensive lines. We’re going to see some athleticism out of their skill positions.
“I think they’ve got some decent size. If I were to compare their lines to Sheridan, I don’t think Sheridan was as big, but I think maybe Sheridan had some kids who were a little bit more experienced on the offensive and defensive lines and a little bit more explosive from a defensive line perspective. I think their skill kids are bigger.”
This will be the second-ever football meeting between the two schools. Logan defeated Jerome 23-7 in the opening round of the 2008 Division II playoffs, the first-ever post-season game contested in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
With classes getting underway today, things switch into a different gear in the final hours heading into the season lidlifter.
“That first-game week is always tough because it’s usually the first week of school,” Burke said. “You have to battle the elements of kids worried about other things. Our (practice) time schedule changes from a morning schedule to an afternoon schedule and now the kids are up earlier. It goes back-and-forth with late practices and what have you.
“It’s always about managing the distractions and to focus on what is truly important,” he continued “Heck, I think that’s what coaching football with high school boys is… if we can worry about what we can control and what’s important, then we can have some success and not let distractions and things that are out of our control cloud our focus.”
Burke feels that as the 2016 Chiefs gain more experience and mature as a team, they will become more aware of their responsibilities and improve as the season progresses.
“The more and more they see themselves on film, the more and more they understand the importance of their job and the execution of their job,” Burke said. “From a defensive perspective, we have some film of when guys execute their assignments how well we’re able to defend an offense, and some of the times where we just don’t quite get our job done how much that truly hurts us.
“That’s part of coaching high school boys too… a lot of times they don’t believe, or buy it, until they actually see it happen and happen to them,” he added. “And on the flip side, look at how well things go for us when you actually do your job. Where we are right now is we’re inconsistent in the execution of our job.
“So once we become more consistent, then the guys next to you have a little more faith that you’ll get your job done so I can truly commit to getting my job done and not worrying about having to make up for you not being in the right spot.”
If the other team is simply better, then so be it.
“That’s all I’m asking: if we will execute our job, and do what we’re supposed to do, I’ll let the physical ability of our opponent versus the physical ability of us let itself play out,” Burke noted. “You never, never want to allow yourself to get beat when you’re making mistakes.
“You really do find out in a football game the team that makes fewer mistakes (not just fumbles and interceptions) — there are a lot of moving parts — is generally the team that comes out winners.”
While the OHSAA Jamboree game with Sheridan was billed as a “game-conditions” scrimmage, there’s no way to duplicate the pomp and circumstance and atmosphere of an actual Friday night football game… especially for a team like Logan with a lot of kids who haven’t had much varsity game experience.
“Sheridan was more game-like, but it certainly wasn’t a game,” Burke said. “We’ll be rocking and rolling and starting things off at home. A raucous environment at home would be nice.”
Injury report: The Chiefs may be without two players Friday night.
Senior lineman Tomas Wright is battling an ankle injury and might not be available, and sophomore running back Jeromy Weaver is out for this week and next week’s game at Teays Valley due to illness.
Looking ahead to ‘17: Since Logan will be an independent athletic program next season — and possibly for several seasons after that — a big part of the varsity schedule later in the season consists of schools that are on their bye week in conferences with an odd number of teams.
Ninety percent of the 2017 schedule is now complete, with Logan having reached an agreement to host Jerome’s sister school, Dublin Scioto, in a week-eight game (Oct. 13) in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Scioto will replace Columbus DeSales on the schedule, as a two-year pact with the Stallions will not be renewed after the Chiefs and Stallions play Oct. 14 in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Like Logan, Scioto is also a Division II school and is in the same OHSAA playoff region (Region 7) as the Chieftains. The Irish were 2-8 overall (1-6 OCC Cardinal) last fall, including a 26-0 loss to Jerome in week seven.
By playing Dublin Scioto tomorrow night and Dublin Scioto next season, it means Logan will have played all three Dublin schools at least once. The Chieftains lost to Dublin Coffman 20-14 in the opening round of the 2001 Division I playoffs at Bill Sauer Field.
Logan still has an opening for week seven next year. Their first six games are at Jerome, home with Teays Valley, Meigs and Sheridan, at Nelsonville-York and at Athens, and their final three contests are home against Scioto, at Hamilton Ross and at Warren.