LOGAN — While Billy Burke wasn't around to bear witness, he's well aware of what has transpired the last couple years when the Logan Chieftains and Nelsonville-York Buckeyes hooked up on the football field.
The Purple & White have been thoroughly whipped... and it's not been a pretty sight.
“I think if you look at the last two years’ scores, if that doesn’t cause some chippiness in our team, I really don’t know what would," said Burke, Logan's first-year head coach. "That should evoke some pride in our young men. We don’t feel (those results are) indicative of us — but, by the same token, we have to go out and prove it.
"We can’t just say that it’s not indicative of who we are as players or as a program," he added. "We actually have to go out and get the 'W' and turn things in our favor.”
The Buckeyes won 42-6 at Boston Field in 2011 and then posted their most-lopsided victory ever over the Chiefs — either as Nelsonville-York Buckeyes or as Nelsonville Greyhounds — in a 50-0 debacle last season in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
No Nelsonville football team has ever beaten Logan three-straight times.
By using the expression "chippiness," Burke is looking at his team as playing with a chip on their collective shoulders... a trait he has yet to see.
“ 'Chippy' in the sense that football is a very physical, nasty game sometimes, and you’ve got to be on edge," Burke said. "That’s something I don’t think we’ve shown yet... the chippiness and the saltiness of being involved in a legal fight out there."
'Chippiness' can also be construed as a combination of competitiveness, confidence and swagger, and that's something the Chiefs just haven't had in recent seasons. However, Burke does see it in his team from time to time... just not on a consistent basis.
Case in point: Logan's Evan DeLong returned an interception a school-record 101 yards for a touchdown to tie last week's game with state-ranked (No. 13 in Division V this week) Loudonville, but the Chiefs were unable to maintain the momentum. The Redbirds scored the game's final 24 points, and didn't allow Logan a first down over the final 34 minutes, in rolling up a 31-7 victory.
“I still think we came out ready to compete each and every snap" against Loudonville, Burke noted. "It was unfortunate that we gave up that touchdown before halftime (after DeLong's TD) because we tried to grab some momentum when Evan ran that interception back.
"Obviously things didn’t go well for us," he continued. "There’s a process in learning how to win. Sometimes it’s not a drill you can do or a position you can put the kids in… it’s (looking for someone) to emerge as a leader who says and does the right things and finally it all clicks for everybody else and we finally get over that hump. Once (that player) emerges it will make a difference.
"I wouldn’t say that we are blessed with overwhelming leadership (now), but when that starts to show, you turn some of these games around. Games don’t get out of hand. It's that leadership that we’re really looking for that will ultimately make the difference in turning the corner."
It's been incredibly tough for the Chiefs to find that player because, well, so many of them have been hurt. The Chiefs got sophomore running back/linebacker/defensive back Cole Baron (ankle injury) back against Loudonville; senior receiver/DB Nick Maniskas (back) expects to finally get on the field Friday night, and sophomore linebacker/RB Bryce McBride (concussion) returns as well.
Logan is still without injured sophomore quarterback Lane Little (collarbone) and junior defensive back Caleb Lewellen (torn labrum), and it's iffy as to whether they will return this season. Junior linebacker/punter Dean Jordan (suspension) will miss Friday's game as well.
Burke notes that injuries are part of the game — but it sure seems as though the Purple & White have had more than their share.
"Let's not forget that (just about) everybody is in our same situation," Burke stated. "One thing that maybe other (teams) aren’t dealing with is that we are learning how to win football games. I haven’t been disappointed in any of our efforts. We’ve worked hard and competed hard; now it’s a matter of getting over the hump of doing it each and every down, each and every opportunity we have and figure out those ways to pull games out.
"The biggest thing that stood out (in watching the Loudonville game film) is that we were watching kids (having to) move around. We’re asking them to play a different position each and every week, and it’s hard to get comfortable and confident in what you are doing when you have to do that," he added. "Hopefully this week we can get some guys settled into a routine of playing the same position for a week or two in a row and hopefully that will make a difference."
Getting some players back, as mentioned, will be a big help.
"We’re just looking for some continuity and some familiar faces each and every week," Burke noted. "We’re slowly working Nick Maniskas back in every day, and Bryce McBride is going to be back this week as well. There’s a couple guys who are still out, but for the most part I think we’ll start to see a little more continuity."
N-Y has injury issues as well. The team's leading rusher, freshman Alex Mount (577 yards and five touchdowns) hurt an ankle in last week's 36-0 shutout of River Valley, and two-way player Dakota Mays also sustained an ankle injury. While Mount should play, Mays' availability is still up in the air.
The Chiefs have seen physical teams (Lancaster and Loudonville), pass-happy teams (Newark), balanced teams (Teays Valley and Loudonville) and various schemes from their first four opponents. In a sense, Burke feels the Buckeyes are a bit more familiar.
The Buckeyes "are a little more like us than any of the opponents we’ve played so far," Burke said. "They want to be a physical team and run the football (and) they have a nice little passing game. I expect that (on defense) they’re probably going to put a lot of guys in the box."
That's what Loudonville did last week. The result: minus-30 Logan rushing yards.
"We had everybody blocked," Burke said. "If we had just used a little better technique, or stayed on (blocks) a little bit longer, we had everybody accounted for and theoretically you can run the football. Hopefully another week’s worth of work (will help). I anticipate Nelsonville trying to do that as well."
Logan couldn't run the ball against Loudonville and had little more success throwing it. Quarterback Nick Kost completed five passes for 24 yards.
Burke knows that Kost has been thrust into a tough situation after Little was injured in the third quarter of the season opener at Lancaster.
“The passing game looks rough, but if we can get a couple things to happen for us I think it will be okay," Burke stated. "Nick (is) a running back playing quarterback. If we can get him a little more confidence in the passing game — and a little bit of that is on him, too, he needs to do some things to establish his own confidence as much as we’re trying to put him in good position (to succeed) — that is a work in progress each and every week as well.
“That’s why out of camp he was our second quarterback who was going to play some other (offensive) positions as well (on) defense," he added. "Now he’s been called to full-time quarterback duties. We think a lot of him. We think he can do some things. It's a matter of him turning the corner on becoming more of a quarterback than a guy who just takes snaps for us."