Blue Devils deal Chiefs 24-14 non-league setback
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — When it comes to winning or losing a football game, sometimes it simply comes down to the common denominator of which team makes the plays when they count.
It was the Zanesville Blue Devils — who had won all of two games entering Friday night — who made those plays Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
“We didn’t take them for granted — but, at the same time, there’s a couple situations where we gotta make a (basic) play in a game that ends up being a big play for them,” said Logan coach Billy Burke after the Blue Devils handed the Chiefs their second-straight defeat, 24-14.
In one way or another, big plays accounted for all 38 points — but it was a couple stops the Chiefs didn’t make, for whatever reason, that proved to be fateful on this fall Friday night.
The Blue Devils (3-5) scored twice on sustained drives that started deep in their own territory, and two of Zanesville quarterback Derek Grandstaff’s three touchdown passes came on botched coverages in the Logan defensive secondary.
Overall, “I really thought we played okay,” said Burke, whose team slipped to 3-5 with two games remaining. “What’s hurting us right now is we don’t have (injured linemen) Keith Martin and Tommy Hayden. Not only do they start on the offensive line, but they also start on the defensive line. That means we’re essentially missing four players.”
And it means having a tougher time blocking for the offense and holding off the other team’s running and passing games. Zanesville gained 401 yards Friday night, including 237 on the ground.
“You have to creatively sub your guys, and (when) you’re essentially down four players, that’s hard to do,” Burke continued. “I told the guys after the game that I thought they played tough, (but) different guys have to step up, and that’s the name of the game. Injuries are part of the game, so guys have to step up and make plays.”
While that’s just what Zanesville did on several occasions, two plays particularly stood out after the Chiefs twice overcame 7-point deficits to tie the game, the second when junior running back Bryce McBride broke a big play of his own — a 67-yard TD run — with 8:39 remaining in the third period.
On the ensuing series, the Blue Devils drove to the Logan 44-yard line, where Grandstaff took the snap and had to be shocked to see senior wide receiver Olajuwon Pettiford — all 5-foot-7 of him — standing absolutely wide open around the 35-yard line.
Grandstaff whipped the ball to him and Pettiford easily outraced the mixed-up Logan defense to the end zone for what proved to be the winning score with 5:40 left in the third period.
“We had a blown assignment by one of our young men and it turned into a huge play,” Burke said. “We made a halftime adjustment that we felt pretty good about… and not all of (the Logan players) made that adjustment.”
But the Chiefs regrouped on their next possession. Spurred by a 34-yard romp by senior running back Dean Jordan, they threatened to tie the game again by driving to the Zanesville 15.
Three plays later, faced with fourth-and-10 (still at the ZHS 15), junior quarterback Lane Little hit senior receiver Isaiah Smith over the middle. Although the pass was behind him, Smith somehow made a terrific twisting, diving catch for what looked to be a first down at the Blue Devil 5-yard line.
When the officials brought out the sideline markers to measure, however, the Chiefs were somehow just inches short of the first down, and Zanesville took over in the final seconds of the third period.
That set up what proved to be a back-breaking play on the opening play of the final stanza.
On second-and-8 from the Zanesville 7, senior running back Jeremiah Jones — who ran for 173 yards on 26 carries — took the ball around left end, found the edge and turned what should have been a short gain into a 49-yard jaunt to the Logan 44.
Zanesville then came up with two more big plays — a 15-yard pass from Grandstaff to Pettiford, and a 16-yard run by Jones — to set senior placekicker Logan Graham up for a 31-yard field goal that gave the Devils what proved to be an insurmountable 10-point edge with 6:28 remaining.
Those were some of the plays that the Blue Devils made — and the Chieftains didn’t — that were, as Burke pointed out, plays that made a difference in the game’s outcome.
The Chiefs got two more possessions, but turned the ball over on downs at the Zanesville 49 and then fumbled their final possession away trying to run a hook-and-lateral off a short pass play.
Zanesville took the early lead as the result of a nine-play, 91-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 32-yard scoring pass in the right corner of the end zone from Grandstaff to junior receiver Alessio Amato on the Blue Devils’ opening possession of the night.
It stayed that way until late in the first half, when the Blue Devils gift-wrapped a defensive touchdown for the Purple & White.
With the ball at the Zanesville 43, Grandstaff — the son of Zanesville head coach Chad Grandstaff — threw a pass in the right flat that bounced off the hands of a Blue Devil receiver.
Since the pass went backwards, it was a lateral — the officials did not blow the play dead — and no one except for Logan junior linebacker Domonic Micochero realized it.
Micochero picked the ball up at the Zanesville 36-yard line and raced the other direction, crossing the goal line for a touchdown just as Pettiford hauled him down from behind, with 3:33 left in the half to tie the game at 7-all.
The two teams then exchanged punts in the final minutes of the half, with Zanesville taking advantage of great field position as the result of the second kick.
With the ball at the Logan 10, McBride was stopped for no gain; Little — who was sacked five times for 45 yards’ worth of lost yardage — was sacked by Pettiford at the Logan 1-yard line, then McBride gained six yards back to the LHS 7.
Zanesville called all three of its first-half timeouts after each play and Amato returned a Jordan punt 14 yards to the Logan 21 with 1:06 left in the half.
Even with no timeouts remaining, the Blue Devils were already in field goal range — but they cashed in a bigger prize than that.
After a pair of incomplete passes, Grandstaff found a wide-open Pettiford, who had beaten man-to-man coverage, in the left side of the end zone to complete a 21-yard scoring play with 31 seconds left and give the Blue Devils a 14-7 halftime lead.
McBride then broke his 67-yard scoring play on Logan’s third offensive play of the second half to draw the Chiefs even before the Devils scored on their ensuing possession to take the lead for good.
The Chieftains host Gallia Academy in a Southeastern Ohio Athletic League contest — and their home finale — next Friday night before visiting Warren on Halloween night to conclude their season.
While those are games the Chiefs should be favored to win, Gallia Academy — which downed Warren 20-6 last night — visits Hocking County tied with Jackson for the league lead.
The Blue Devils can win the SEOAL title by beating the Chiefs in week nine and the Ironmen in week 10; Logan, meanwhile, needs to defeat Gallipolis and Warren — and hope that GAHS defeats Jackson in their season finale — to forge a tie for the league championship.
“As we move forward, we have to find a way to stay after it, finish this season off and go 5-5,” Burke said. “We have two to go. Let’s finish it off the right way.
“We signed up to play (and) we signed up to coach,” he added. “Every single game we’re going to line up and work our tails off all week long and try to win the game. We have two opportunities left — these seniors only have two opportunities to play (and for) some of them, (the final football game of) the rest of their lives — so we have to finish this thing off the right way and get these two wins.”