By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
NELSONVILLE — Folding was not an option for the Logan Chieftains Friday night.
Oh, the Purple & White could have done so on several occasions — including when the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes brought on a 265-pound lineman to attempt a game-tying 2-point conversion midway through the final quarter at Boston Field — but they refused to do so.
And, for the second time this season, the Chiefs were rewarded... this time, with a thrilling 14-12 victory over their neighborhood rivals.
Logan fumbled the ball away three times (including the game-opening kickoff and a couple late fourth-quarter bobbles that could have led to a game-winning score by the Buckeyes), and had a punt blocked... but they did not, would not, fold. They looked adversity squarely in the eyes and backed it down.
“We’ve done that in our two wins, and that’s says a lot about our kids and the way we’re headed as a football team and program,” he continued. “We just need to fix the silly things like the short field we gave them, and the fumbles in the crucial situations, but we can win with the attitude and the effort we had tonight.”
They did so Friday night and thus finished the first half of their season with a 2-3 slate heading into Southeastern Ohio Athletic League competition next Friday against visiting Portsmouth.
The Buckeyes, who were denied a history-making third-straight victory over Logan, are also 2-3 heading into their Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division opener at Meigs.
“In recent history we might have folded our tents after fumbling that opening kickoff. Been there, done that,” Burke said. “So (instead) we’re going to fight through that adversity like we did. I never got the sense from the kids like ‘oh, no, here we go again,’ I got the sense that ‘darn it, let’s turn the page and make another play.’ “
Quarterback Nick Kost threw two touchdown passes — a beautiful 44-yarder down the left sideline to Nathan Cocks in the first minute of the second period and a familiar 6-yard jump pass to 6-foot-8 tight end Kevin Fisher midway through the third — and Charles Bowlby’s two extra-point kicks provided the margin of victory. N-Y failed to convert 2-point conversion attempts on both of its scores.
“Our offense has kind of de-evolved, or you can call it evolved, it doesn’t matter what you call it,” said Burke. “We’re finding an offense that’s fitting our personnel and, namely, our quarterback. These are the types of things that Nick seems to be comfortable and confident with, and as we continue to work on that and refine it, I think we’ll have more success on offense.”
“I hate to keep talking about youth, but that’s the inexperience coming through right there,” Nelsonville-York coach Dave Boston Jr. stated. “We’re still trying to get better each week and believe in ourselves. When you get opportunities like we had tonight and you don’t capitalize, that’s the youth coming through.
“I was proud of our kids. We fought hard and never quit,” he added. “Defensively, we bent a little bit (but) we didn’t break. We were physical. It was just one of those nights. Logan played well and wanted it maybe a little bit more than we did.”
While that final statement could be construed somewhat as coachspeak, maybe that was indeed the case Friday night. The Chiefs were somewhat embarrassed by a 31-7 loss to Loudonville last week in which they didn’t register a first down over the game’s final 34 minutes.
Burke was asked if his team had been baptized by fire, so speak, with a tough non-league schedule that also included Lancaster, Teays Valley and Newark.
“We have been baptized, that’s a fact,” Burke said with a smile, “but what I wish is that we had a chance to play those teams again after we found ourselves. I don’t know if this is who we are yet, but we’re constantly trying to find ourselves. That’s my job as a coach to figure that out. It’s taken me this many weeks to find something that seems to work, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
The Chiefs are becoming more of a ground-based team with a quarterback who began to find his stride Friday night. While Kost only attempted nine passes — and completed just four — two were for TDs, and most of Logan’s passes came at opportune times.
Logan rushed for 222 yards — Isaac Schmeltzer gained 99, Kost 67 and Bryce McBride 50 — after being held to minus-30 last week. And the Logan defense rose to the occasion, limiting N-Y to just 183 total yards — just 50 on the ground — and N-Y had minus-24 yards rushing in the first half.
N-Y drove to the Logan 14-yard line after the Chiefs fumbled away the opening kickoff at their own 33, but the Logan defense stopped Noah Andrews for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 to set a tone for what was to come.
But, after N-Y’s Donovan Ross blocked a punt on Logan’s ensuing possession, the Bucks took the lead by driving 41 yards on eight plays, with Colton Adams scoring on a 1-yard QB sneak.
Instead of letting adversity beat them, the Chiefs turned adversity on its ear. On the ensuing series, on third-and-3, Kost rolled left and connected with a wide-open Cocks down the left sideline. Cocks made an over-the-shoulder catch in stride and rambled into the end zone with 11:16 left in the second period, and Bowlby’s PAT kick put the Chiefs ahead.
Logan’s defense took over the rest of the half and then forced a three-and-out on the opening series of the second half.
The Chiefs then put together one of their best drives of the season, a nine-play, 60-yarder on which Schmeltzer (11 yards) and Kost (10 and 22) had big runs before finding themselves facing fourth-and-goal at the N-Y 6.
In the first quarter of the season opener at Lancaster, Kost — at the time in the role of wildcat QB, not the full-time QB — put the Chiefs ahead with a 4-yard jump pass to Fisher in the end zone. That play worked again Friday night, with Fisher making just his second reception of the season... both for six points.
N-Y mounted its final scoring drive with 9:10 left in the final period and went 52 yards on nine plays to paydirt, with Andrews scoring on a 2-yard run to pull N-Y within 14-12 with 5:38 left.
But when Elliott was stacked up by the swarming Logan defense short of the goal line on the ensuing conversion run, the Chiefs were able to preserve their precarious lead.
“Maybe (it’s because we) we spent more time in the weight room to prepare for that situation,” Burke said. “I think our kids were ready for that and we played good, low defense and made the play.”
“You have a three-year starter (Elliott) there, he knows the ropes. He’s got the experience,” Boston said. “We figure they’re looking at us to run the power behind him. You gamble a little bit. That was my call and I accept that. Jay’s a great young man. We lost that battle there. That’s not to say we won’t come back with it.”
The Chiefs fumbled the ball away on their next two offensive possessions — and, on the latter, gave N-Y one last chance from the Logan 17-yard line — but they held on.
Logan forced an N-Y punt after the first fumble then, with the Buckeyes out of time-outs and using short sideline passes trying to move the ball and conserve time in the final minute, Logan’s Brandon Arnett picked off an Adams pass at the Logan 14 when the Buckeyes finally decided to go deep with the clock under 30 seconds. Arnett also had a key interception in Logan’s other win over Newark.
Kost then took one snap from center and kneeled in victory formation to run out the clock.
Logan held freshman Alex Mount, the team’s leading rusher, to 40 yards. Mount’s status had been questionable going into the game due to injury, and N-Y was also missing Dakota Mays, a key two-way player, due to injury.
The Chiefs know all about injuries this season, that’s for sure.
“Growing pains for Alex,” Boston said. “He’s still learning his way. He’s going to continue to get stronger. It’s a matter of a big game here and there for him. He can break it out at any time. They did a nice job tonight containing him.”
Adams had a nice night, completing 18-of-24 passes for 133 yards, with 11 of those receptions going to Jeremy Warren for 109 yards.
“We wanted to work on the passing game a little bit tonight,” Boston said. “We felt we could throw the ball on them. They had done a pretty decent job against the run this year. They’re big up front. We figured we could hit them with the short ball and get a fair amount of completions.”
The Chiefs thus wipe the slate clean heading into league play against the Trojans, who themselves knocked off a rival, Ironton, by a 33-20 count on Friday night.
“I guess I started our second season a game early,” Burke stated. “I told the kids before the game this was our brand-new season, to start over and re-focus on the goals that are still left in our sights.
“I kind of consider this like a league game,” he added. “When you play a rival right before league, why not treat it like a league game? If we don’t win this game going into league, shoot, how do we feel going into league? But if we can pick this (win) up beforehand, it’s sort of like when teams are trying to get into the playoffs at the end of the regular season and consider those games their playoffs.”
Consider league play — and the playoffs — under way in Chieftain Nation.
Boston’s comments provided by Jason Arkley of The Athens Messenger.