Chiefs work their way back to break-even mark
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTSMOUTH — It would be appropriate to describe the Logan Chieftains’ Southeastern Ohio Athletic League victory at Portsmouth Friday night as a solid, workman-like effort.
All five Logan touchdowns came on the ground as the Purple & White won for the third time in their last four games — and got back to the .500 mark on the season in so doing — with a 32-7 triumph in their final scheduled meeting against the host Trojans.
“They loaded the box with eight guys and played a lot of cover-one and tight-cover three, but we chose to run the ball… and we did,” he added. “They (the Trojans) knew we were going to run the ball and we ran it anyway. The kids have to take a lot of pride in that. I’m happy with that performance.”
The Chieftains ground out 269 rushing yards and, for the first time this season, did not throw a touchdown pass. But because they established the run early, they really didn’t need too.
Bryce McBride (88 yards on 14 carries) and Chance Cox (93 on just three attempts) each had a pair of rushing touchdowns, and Dean Jordan added the other, as the Chiefs did their part in setting up next week’s SEOAL showdown at Jackson.
The undefeated Ironmen (6-0 overall, 1-0 SEOAL) did their part, too, by defeating Warren 28-5. The winner of next Friday’s clash in Alumni Stadium takes command in the race for the league title.
The Trojans (1-5, 0-1) unveiled a wrinkle by starting athletic, 6-foot-3 wide receiver Alex Dickerson at quarterback. And while Dickerson and senior running back Darrion Robinson are both capable of breaking big plays, the Logan defense kept them from doing so until the game was well out of reach.
It was far enough out of reach, in fact, that all but four minutes of the second half were played with a running clock as Logan built a commanding 32-0 advantage before the Trojans finally staved off being shut out.
“I thought Portsmouth played well and played hard,” Burke said. “I think they might have played their best game of the season.
“They made a move at quarterback and we were able to play assignment football on defense, which I’m really proud of,” he continued. “The kids bought into the concept of how you defend a triple-option team, and we did that pretty well and got them out of that game, which I think they like a lot. I’m proud of the way we fought through this workman-like game.”
“We work together real well and everyone works for the team, not for individual stats,” said Cox, a team co-captain. “We win and lose as a team. Everything’s about the person next to each other, and that’s what counts.”
The Chiefs made a Portsmouth turnover count in the early going. Dickerson fumbled a shotgun snap from center and Logan’s D.J. Madison recovered at the Portsmouth 18-yard line.
Two plays later, McBride scored on the first of a pair of 8-yard scoring runs for a 6-0 lead with 7:49 left in the opening period.
The Trojans fumbled the ball away on their first two offensive series in a 49-21 loss to Ironton last week. Ironton turned both miscues into six-pointers and also went on to open up a 30-plus point advantage.
Using a series of unorthodox quick-pitches in the backfield, Dickerson and Robinson guided the Trojans into Logan territory before Brandon Skinner threw Dickerson for a 7-yard loss to give Logan the ball on downs.
A 33-yard scramble by junior quarterback Lane Little got the Chiefs to the Portsmouth 30-yard line. Moments later, after Little was sacked for a 15-yard loss, the Chiefs bounced back and got a first down on short passes over the middle to Isaiah Smith (12 yards) and McBride (10) and a 5-yard run by McBride on fourth-and-4.
McBride scored from eight yards out on the next play to make it 12-0.
The Chiefs got a couple huge plays — and one big break — on their next series, when they drove 66 yards on 11 plays to make it 19-0.
A Little pass over the middle deflected off Casey Phillips’ hands and into those of Cox, who turned the play into a 19-yard gain. He fumbled as he was being brought down, and a mad scramble ensued, but the Chiefs retained possession.
Then, three plays later, Little scrambled, ran about 30 yards while twice reversing his field, and somehow found Cox for a 20-yard gain to the Portsmouth 5. Jordan scored on the next play.
Jordan then made a leaping, sprawling pickoff of a Dickerson pass and Logan turned the miscue into a six-play, 40-yard scoring drive.
A 21-yard run by McBride — who gained an opening thanks to a terrific Colton Stilwell block — was the key play before Cox scored from three yards out with 3:45 left in the half to make it 25-0.
The score could have been worse: the Chieftains missed two of three extra-point kicks as well as a two-point conversion.
Portsmouth battled the clock to get into position to attempt a 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half, but Zach Delotell’s placement came up short.
Then, less than a minute into the second half, Cox took the ball around the right side on a jet sweep, somehow avoided what could have been a substantial loss in the backfield, and broke free down the right sideline for a 77-yard scoring jaunt that made it 32-0.
That also activated the 30-point-differential rule — and a second-half running clock — for a fourth-consecutive week.
“I was coming around the edge and saw a guy and didn’t want to take a loss,” Cox said. “I broke a tackle and followed my blockers. I owe a big part of that to them. I looked ahead and there was a hole and everyone was on a block. That’s what made it happen.”
The Chiefs then recovered the ensuing kickoff when it was lined off a Portsmouth up-man and went loose at the 47-yard line, but later fumbled the ball away at the PHS 15. The Trojans then drove deep into Chieftain territory before doing likewise — losing their third fumble of the game — at the Logan 9-yard line.
It wasn’t until 2:17 remained in the game when the Trojans broke through on a Dickerson 26-yard scoring pass to Tristin Visi.
Dickerson and Robinson got into dangerously-open areas on several occasions, and there were times when they appeared to be ready to break a long gainer, but the Chiefs almost always came through with a stop or running them out-of-bounds when they needed it to preserve the shutout into the final two minutes.
“That’s something we have to continue to work on on defense,” Burke noted. “I told the guys at halftime that way too many times, in a series of three downs, we let the other team bail themselves out. They (weren’t making) plays in the context of their play; they just improvised and made plays. We have to do a better job making sure we contain the ball and keep it inside so we can keep pressure on the inside and contain it on the outside and corral the ball. We let it outside way too much.
“That’s a part of any defense,” he added. “Guys are supposed to be in certain spots and in contain position. We’ve focused on other aspects of our game and gotten better, and we’ll focus on that and get better at that and get that corrected. What we saw tonight was the game plan to take away the option game and run the football like we did. That was our game, and we executed it.”
And now — well, as of 9:10 p.m. this evening, actually, once Burke’s “24-hour rule” to enjoy the victory is over — it’s officially Jackson week.
“It’s no secret that everybody looks at (the Jackson) game as a determining factor as to who’s going to win the league this year,” Burke said. “That’s a great atmosphere and a great opportunity for these kids to play in something super-big and meaningful. We’ll be ready.”
Cox echoed those thoughts.
“Jackson’s a big week,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest rivalries we have. It kind of determines the league. We’ll go back and look at film on Portsmouth and see what we did and what we didn’t do, we’ll correct our mistakes and come back 100 percent for Jackson.”