Braves roll up big lead early in rolling past Chieftains
By CRAIG DUNN
CIRCLEVILLE — What was a surreal, unnerving — and at times downright disturbing — off-the-field week in and around Chieftain Nation culminated in a nightmarish on-the-field evening for the football Chiefs.
Dealing with a rash of injuries, the continuing saga and fallout of COVID and the late-week incident in their home stadium that thrust the school and this small town into the unwanted national spotlight, the Chiefs found themselves down 14-0 before they even had an offensive possession Friday night at Logan Elm.
The host Braves would streak to a 35-0 lead late in the first half, score on six of their first seven possessions, and go on to roll past the Purple & White 48-21 in the first-ever football meeting between the two schools from bordering counties.
Logan Elm — the Chiefs’ third first-time opponent from the Mid-State League this season — improved to 3-2 while Logan dropped to 0-5.
Sailor caught 10 passes for 77 yards and Chalfin had six total receptions for 110 yards while Robinson was a solid 19-of-23 passing for 243 yards as well as rushing for 87 yards.
In short, other than a couple big plays, the Chieftains just couldn’t keep up Friday night.
The Braves took the game’s opening possession 76 yards on eight plays to paydirt then, when Logan fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, took full advantage less than two minutes later to make it 14-0 a little more than four minutes into the game. The Chiefs would not recover.
Logan coach Mike Eddy described a “weird week” as being “like we’ve been living in ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
The week was capped off by the bizarre incident in Logan Chieftain Stadium in which a woman from an opposing junior high football team created a situation that ended up going viral and into national headlines.
Part of the fallout for the Chieftains was, with the school being under lockout conditions on Thursday due to threats to the school from crackpots all over the nation, they were not permitted to practice outdoors to make their final preparations.
“We went indoors on Thursday,” Eddy said, “but it changed everything. I just didn’t feel like we had the same week of preparation that we would normally have. We didn’t get the same kind of reps we would normally get.
“Coming into the game I expected us to be down five starters and two backups” due to injuries, he added. “We had a couple guys have gutsy performances by going out there and playing with some injuries and some busted-up ankles and that kind of thing. A couple of them didn’t make it. We’ve just been decimated all week by injuries and a messed-up schedule all around.”
It forced the Chiefs to make some late changes in their game plan, and they didn’t work well as the Braves won their third-straight game for the first time since 2015, when they started the season 6-1.
“Coming into the game we planned on playing a three-man front, which is what we’ve done a couple times against passing teams earlier this year, so we felt as much as they were going to sling it around because we’re down some D-linemen let’s play that three-man front,” Eddy revealed. “Early on it made us so susceptible to (the quarterback) run. We weren’t able to create enough pressure in our rush lanes to contain him and so we had to get out of that pretty early.”
Robinson thus accounted for six touchdowns and 330 total yards’ worth of offense with both his arm and his legs. When Logan would apply pressure, he would simply scramble around or through it or find a passing lane, throwing just four incomplete passes all night.
And it didn’t help that Chiefs came out flat and lacking emotion at the outset. That would prove costly.
“We couldn’t put all the pieces together tonight,” Eddy said. “We fell behind early. It was such a strange vibe even before the game. It was just a weird feeling.
“One thing I’ve learned about this COVID-19 football season is that I hate being the away team,” he continued. “You’re sitting over there in the corner of the end zone (visiting teams are not allowed to go into a locker room) by yourself (and) there’s no atmosphere. When you’re coming out for that opening kickoff, the kids feel like they’re walking out for practice. It’s just not a Friday night atmosphere to start the game, and I think that had so much to do mentally with the way we started the game.
“Like I said, if somebody wasn’t filming an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ this week, I don’t know what happened. It’s been a week like I haven’t experienced in a really long time.”
LE running back Blayton Reid (83 yards on the ground) capped off that game-opening drive with a 9-yard scoring run then, after getting the ball back, Robinson found David Evans in the back of the end zone on a nifty 23-yard pitch-and-catch to make it 14-0 with 7:52 still left in the opening stanza.
Robinson connected with Chalfin on a 48-yard catch-and-run slant pass over the middle on fourth down late in the first quarter for six points then, early in the second, went deep to a wide-open Chalfin, a dozen yards behind the nearest Logan defensive back, on a 48-yard scoring play.
A 5-yard scoring toss from Robinson to Sailor made it 35-0 Braves with 4:57 still left in the first half.
The Chiefs responded, however, finally breaking loose on offense with Caden McCarty going 25 yards on a draw play and Ian Frasure hooking up with Jonny McClelland on a 34-yard pass play down to the 2-yard line. McCarty scored on a 1-yard run to get the Chiefs on the board with 3:34 left in the half.
But the Braves then put together a terrific end-of-half drive, going 47 yards on eight plays and setting themselves up with a fourth-and-goal from inside the one-yard line, calling time-out with one second remaining in the half.
The Braves got a huge break on the final play of the half.
Robinson’s pass over the middle was tipped by a Logan defensive lineman, only to fall into the hands of an alert Sailor, who came back toward the ball and took it into the end zone for a 41-7 LE halftime lead.
Yes, it was a play out of the football version of The Twilight Zone…appropriate for what the Chiefs and this community have went through this week.
“We played some younger guys… I was really proud of the way some of those guys stepped up to play tonight,” Eddy praised. “They hadn’t gotten a lot of reps. And I’m most proud of the way the kids finished the game.
“At halftime it would have been so easy for those guys to just put their heads down and pout and wait for the clock to run out so they could go home,” he added, “but they didn’t do that. We challenged them at halftime to come out and finish the game the way they could be proud of.
“I felt like we came out and played that way in the second half. We still made some critical errors in the second half as well, but we cleaned up a lot of the mistakes we were making defensively.”
Facing a running clock since the 30-point-differential rule went into effect to start the second half, the Chiefs quickly got the deficit under 30 when Frasure hooked up with Traten Poling on a look-in pass over the middle. Poling went the distance, 61 yards in all, without a LE defender laying so much as a finger on him to make it 41-15 less than a minute into the third stanza after Frasure and McCarty hooked up on a two-point conversion aerial.
Robinson scored on a 1-yard run with 3:06 left in the third period before the Chiefs, set up on a 49-yard bomb from Frasure to senior Brandon Heft — making his first appearance after missing the first four games of the season due to an injury — scored on a McCarty 3-yard run with 12 seconds left in the quarter to end the scoring.
McCarty finished with a team-best 43 yards rushing while Frasure was 9-of-19 passing for 162 yards while throwing two picks. McClelland caught three passes for 49 yards.
“Hat’s off to our kids for battling right to the very end,” Eddy said. “That’s all we ever ask them to do. We talked about before the game excellence doesn’t require perfection. We needed to go out and be excellent tonight and there were times when we weren’t excellent…Logan Elm took advantage of that and jumped on us early. We just never recovered from it.”
There is one thing, however, Eddy said the Chiefs simply have to figure out going into their game next Friday at Watkins Memorial.
“I noticed it at the Amanda game (in week two) and it was even more apparent tonight: the lack of that Friday night buzz that you get,” Eddy said. “Even at my age, I still get those butterflies and I still get excited on Friday night and that feeling just wasn’t there.
“I think that plays into our kids’ mentally,” he continued. “Friday nights are different than Tuesday’s practice…but when you put your helmet on and you go on the sideline and it feels like Tuesday’s practice, you just don’t have that same emotion and that same get-up right from the start of the game.”
That will be on this week’s agenda without a doubt.
“We’re going to have to find a solution to that because that’s not going to change,” Eddy pointed out. “That’s something I didn’t think we would have to coach, but pre-game intensity is something we have to talk about this week and how we’re going to create it prior to the start of the game. We have to do something to get excited to go play and change the atmosphere and create that intensity ourselves.”
Logan Elm 48, Logan 21
Logan 0 7 14 0—21
Logan Elm 21 20 7 0—48
LE: Blayton Reid 9 run (Gabe Chalfin kick), 9:35, 1Q
LE: David Evans 23 pass from Conner Robinson (Chalfin kick), 7:52, 1Q
LE: Chalfin 43 pass from Robinson (Chalfin kick), 0:54, 1Q
LE: Chalfin 48 pass from Robinson (Chalfin kick), 8:35, 2Q
LE: Jason Sailor 5 pass from Robinson (Caleb Eplin kick), 4:57, 2Q
Logan: Caden McCarty 1 run (Ian Frasure kick), 3:34, 2Q
LE: Sailor 1 pass from Robinson (kick failed), 0:00, 2Q
Logan: Traten Poling 61 pass from Frasure (McCarty pass from Frasure), 11:21, 3Q
LE: Robinson 1 run (Eplin kick), 3:06, 3Q
Logan: McCarty 3 run (run failed), 0:12, 3Q
Team Statistics LO LE
First Downs 7 23
Offensive Plays 38 74
Rushes-Yards 19-73 48-212
Passing Yards 162 242
Total Yards 235 454
Passes 9-19-2 21-26-0
Punts-Avg. 2-27.0 2-33.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-0
Penalties-Yards 1-10 6-41
Possession 16:45 31:15
Rushing — Logan: Caden McCarty 8-43 1TD, Ian Frasure 8-14, Traten Poling 1-11, Brandon Heft 1-6, Varik Fick 1-(-1). LE leaders: Conner Robinson 13-87 1TD, Blayton Reid 16-83 1TD.
Passing — Logan: Ian Frasure 9-19-2—162 1TD. LE: Conner Robinson 18-22-0—243 5TD, Carson Summers 3-4-0—(-1).
Receiving — Logan: Jonny McClelland 3-49, Traten Poling 2-62 1TD, Caden McCarty 2-(-2), Brandon Heft 1-49, Brayden Sturgell 1-4. LE: Jason Sailor 10-77 2TD, Gabe Chalfin 6-110 2TD, Cole Westenbarger 2-28, Braylen Baker 2-4, David Evans 1-23 TD.