By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — A good open-field tackle by a Lancaster defender could have thrown the 2013 Logan Chieftains football season into total chaos… and, well, for awhile it did.
When sophomore starting quarterback Lane Little was tackled on a third-quarter scramble in the season opener at Fulton Field, he sustained a broken collarbone that all but ended his season.
It took them nearly half the season, but they made the proper adjustments.
That early-season adversity brought to the forefront what proved to be the best traits of this football team: the ’13 Chiefs exhibited a lot of heart; they were resilient, and they were very coachable.
Working tirelessly to make the adjustments, new head coach Billy Burke, his staff and players eventually made it all work. Not only did they regroup, but they became league champions.
The Chieftains won five of their last six games (and six of their last eight), finished with a winning record for the first time in four years, and ended a four-year drought of Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championships.
Logan started 0-2 (losses to Lancaster and Teays Valley) and 1-3 before hitting stride to finish 6-4 and take the outright conference championship.
The ’13 Chiefs will always be remembered not only for winning the school’s 26th SEOAL grid crown, but for how they did it.
The Chiefs turned to senior Nick Kost — originally slated to be a wildcat quarterback of sorts for maybe a dozen or so plays per game — as their full-time QB.
At first, the adjustment was awkward. But Kost eventually settled into the role and played it well. With the coaching staff carefully picking his spots, foes eventually had to respect his arm as well as his running ability.
Moving Kost to full-time QB — he was, by far, the team’s leading tackler last season — began a domino effect on the rest of the team.
The Chiefs scrambled for a month before the pieces began to fall into place with a hard-earned, 14-12 week-five victory at Nelsonville-York; from that point on, Logan’s only loss was a week-eight setback at undefeated Zanesville… which, earlier this week, was voted state Division II poll champion by The Associated Press.
The Chiefs capped off their stirring turnaround by ripping Warren 49-22 in their season finale last Friday in Logan Chieftain Stadium… a thoroughly dominant performance that clinched the outright title.
Senior Isaac Schmeltzer rushed for a school-record seven touchdowns against Warren behind an offensive line that, once the Chiefs found their team identity in mid-season, helped turn sweeps into six-pointers.
A strong group of seniors — led in particular by Kost, Schmeltzer, Evan DeLong, co-captain Austin Scarberry, Gabe Smith, Jesse Needs, Charles Paulsen, Nick Schneider, Reggie Wesselhoeft, Colton Wolfe, Brock Emerson and Caleb Myers — imposed their will and turned the ’13 Chieftains into a championship team.
And the emotional leadership of senior co-captains Nick Maniskas (who missed most of the season due to injuries) and Dennis Smathers, as well as senior Kevin Allwine, played a major role in this team’s success as well.
Looking back, only one potential victory got away from the Chiefs: you can bet they would love to have another chance to play Teays Valley.
The Chieftain team that finished the season by routing Warren on Nov. 1 was a far cry better than the Chiefs who lost 26-13 to Teays Valley back on Sept. 5. The Vikings then lost their next six games and seven of their last eight.
And, while finishing only 14th in Division II Region 5, the Chiefs would have edged Columbus Northland for the No. 8 slot had they beaten Teays Valley and Loudonville.
Let’s celebrate the ’13 Chiefs for what they were: a gutsy, league-championship team that hopefully put together a solid foundation upon which future Chieftain teams can build the program.