LOGAN — When the book is finally written on the Chieftains’ 2013 season, a chapter or two must be devoted to the play of their special teams.
Excellent special teams play has played a huge role in the team’s success. Without it, the Chiefs wouldn’t be 5-4 entering Friday night’s finale against Warren.
Special teams have especially played tremendous roles in Logan’s Southeastern Ohio Athletic League wins over Portsmouth, Jackson and Gallipolis. Logan could very well be 2-1, 1-2 or even 0-3 in the league otherwise.
“If you look up and down our special teams, we don’t have an overwhelming amount of offensive and defensive starters on them,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “We are getting guys opportunities to get into the game, and I think for those guys who get in the game (it goes) back to knowing our roles.
And that’s special teams standout Isaac Schmeltzer’s view as well.
“I don’t worry about my teammates because I know they’re going to do their jobs,” said Schmeltzer, who not only has tied a school record by returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns but has been oh-so-close to breaking a couple more. “I can focus on doing my job well because I know my teammates are going to theirs.
“That’s how all of us have been so successful on special teams because everybody’s been doing their job,” he added. “That’s one of the biggest factors (in the Chiefs’ success), how well we work as a team.”
Kickoffs — both returns and stingy KO return defense — have both helped set up excellent starting field position for the Chiefs’ offense and forced opposing offenses to start from deeper in their own territory.
Schmeltzer has 670 kickoff return yards (24.8 yards per return) and fellow senior Evan DeLong has 190 (27.1), including an 85-yard kickoff return TD of his own. Schmeltzer’s TDs are for 95 and 92 yards, and he’s had returns of 57 and 51 yards as well.
DeLong has an 85-yard KO return touchdown — he and Schmeltzer’s combined three touchdown returns also ties a school record as well — and a 42-yarder.
The Chiefs average 22.1 yards per kickoff return while allowing just 15.7… that’s two-thirds of a first down’s worth of yardage to start a typical offensive possession.
And that doesn’t count the dozen or so times opponents have either kicked the ball out of bounds or squib-kicked the ball short to keep the ball out of Schmeltzer or DeLong’s hands, resulting in many more Chiefs possessions starting between their own 35-yard line to midfield.
It hasn’t been just kickoffs, either. While the Chiefs have had a few punts and placement kicks blocked, and a few bad snaps, overall they’ve been solid as well.
Six different players have punted for the Chieftains and, although they only have a combined average of 31.3 yards per punt, and have had to punt 39 times compared to just 23 for their opponents, only six of those punts (for just 63 yards) have been returned.
And senior placekicker Charles Bowlby has gradually made the transition from soccer player to football placekicker. His kickoffs have been better than most of the Chiefs’ opponents, and he’s 23-for-28 in point after touchdown kicks (three misses and two blocks), including 11 of his last 12. His two PATs were the difference in a 14-12 win over Nelsonville-York; the Buckeyes tried (and failed) on a pair of 2-point conversions because they didn’t have a reliable kicker.
Quick hitters: In the next-to-last state Associated Press poll of the season, Zanesville was tied for first (with Loveland) atop Division II. Loudonville, which lost its first game of the season to undefeated Calendonia River Valley, fell to ninth in Division V. … Going into the final weekend of the regular season, Logan’s opponents have a combined record of 45-45. Broken down, the five teams the Chiefs have beaten are 17-28 while the four teams they’ve lost to are 25-11, with 3-6 Warren on tap to finish the campaign. … Zanesville is the only Logan opponent assured of making the playoffs and Loudonville (currently seventh in its Division V region) is the only other team in realistic contention for the post-season. … Opening-round playoff matchups will be announced Sunday afternoon by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Lower seeds play at higher seeds in the first round, with neutral sites to host games in weeks 12, 13 and 14 and the state finals to be contested Dec. 5-7 in Massillon and Canton.