By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor email@example.com
LOGAN — Call it what you will — student body left/right... jet sweep... Green Bay Packers/Notre Dame sweep, whatever — but make sure you call the Logan Chieftain offense record-setting Friday night.
The same Chieftains who were held to negative-30 rushing yards two weeks ago by Loudonville literally swept the Portsmouth Trojans out of Logan Chieftain Stadium with a school-record 562 ground yards en route to a 54-27 victory in the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League opener for both teams.
In a game of not just big, but huge plays, senior Isaac Schmeltzer scored five touchdowns, sophomore Bryce McBride broke TD rambles of 99 and 84 yards, and senior Evan DeLong returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for six points as the Chiefs (3-3 overall) opened SEOAL play in a resounding manner.
Schmeltzer and McBride both ran for 223 yards and, in so doing, became the first-ever duo of Chieftain runners to eclipse 200 yards in the same game.
Logan's 562 rushing yards bested the all-time school record of 536 (at Warren in 2006), and McBride tied a record that can never be broken with his 99-yard scoring jaunt midway through the third period.
"Look at the personnel we had available," said first-year Logan coach Billy Burke, whose Chiefs have won three of their last four games after an 0-2 start. "We had a stable of four running backs, so we were able to put three in the game at the same time (and) run sweeps right and left."
You could consider it somewhat of a throwback to old-fashioned football. As far as the Chiefs are concerned, that's just fine.
"We think that we're getting better each week," Burke said, "and this was an example of maybe it finally coming together the way we might look the rest of the season going forward. We were physical at the point of attack and our runners were really patient and let the blocks set up for them. We were able to spring some long ones and also had some nice long drives as well."
That's for sure. During a run of 26 unanswered points, the Chiefs scored on drives of 87 (two plays), 95 (10 plays), 99 (five plays) and 99 again (three plays), and McBride bookended those series with his long TD runs.
Portsmouth punter Zach Delotell twice came up with great kicks that pinned the Chiefs inside their own 1-yard line... but all it wound up doing was giving the Chiefs more room to add to what would be their record rushing totals. The 99-yard drives came late in the second period and midway through the third.
Seven of Friday night's 12 touchdowns were on plays that ranged between 37 and 99 yards and three others were between 15 and 18. If you like gaudy offense numbers, well, the two teams combined for 974 yards (589 Logan, 385 Portsmouth) of total offense
Schmeltzer reached paydirt on runs of 37, 4, 17, 15 and 63 yards; McBride's were 84 and 99, as mentioned, and DeLong quickly brought the Homecoming crowd to its feet by taking the opening kickoff 85 yards to the end zone to stake Logan to a lead it would not relinquish.
Then, after Logan's Brandon Arnett picked off a Sky Oliver pass on Portsmouth's second offensive play from scrimmage — Oliver went 22-of-34 passing for 232 yards, but Logan intercepted five of his passes (one less than the Chiefs had all last season and equaling the number they had in 2011) — Schmeltzer swept around right end for 37 yards and a score on Logan's second play from scrimmage. It was 14-0 lead with 10:22 still left in the opening period.
Portsmouth got right back into the game, however, when Johnnie Charles took the ensuing kickoff at the PHS 3-yard line, cut down the right sideline and found a 97-yard lane to the Logan end zone. Just like that, it was 14-6 Logan — 20 total points in less than two minutes to open the game.
Basketball coaches John Helber (Logan) and Eugene Collins (Portsmouth) would certainly have been pleased with those numbers.
The Trojans threatened to tie after forcing Logan's only punt of the night, but Chieftain defensive back Casey Phillips made a great interception in the end zone to keep the Trojans at bay.
McBride then took a sweep around left end and outran the Trojans 84 yards to the end zone and a 21-6 Logan lead with 3:33 still to play in the opening stanza.
The Chiefs would eventually wear down the short-handed Trojans. Logan rushed for 304 yards in the first half alone and didn't throw a pass until late in the third quarter.
The Purple & White eventually rolled up a 40-6 lead after McBride's 99-yard run tied the all-time school record set by Larry Bainter against Middleport in 1960... a record that can be tied, but never broken.
"They're a big, physical team, and that's something we saw on film," said Jason Sparks, Portsmouth's first-year mentor. "You never can really put it in full perspective until you see it in person. Hats off to them; they were better than us tonight. They imposed their will on us in the running game. We take pride in (defense), but they were better than us tonight."
With a lot of smaller players in the lineup, the Chiefs broke through countless tackles and got dozens — if not hundreds — of yards after breaking them.
A 21-point run, produced on a 3-yard scoring run by Charles, a 47-yard jaunt by Oliver, and an 18-yard hookup between Oliver and Austin Hollins, the latter with 7:17 still to play in the game, pulled the Trojans within 40-27.
Logan recovered an onside kick, however, and drove 48 yards on seven plays to a TD, with Schmeltzer doing the honors from 15 yards out, to give the Chiefs some breathing room.
Oliver was then picked off by Logan's Dominick Stevens, which set up a game-capping 63-yard TD ramble by Schmeltzer down the left sideline. He was barely touched until a Portsmouth player tried to shove him out of bounds around the PHS 10-yard line; Schmeltzer shrugged it off, stayed inbounds and crossed the goal line with 2:43 to play.
Sparks was pleased with the way his team fought back from a 34-point deficit to at least make the Chiefs sweat a bit.
"We have some scrappers," Sparks said. "They're fighting and fighting and fighting, and I hate it for them because they have to see results. To me, and to our coaches, we see results right now: we see kids getting better. But to a kid, to a football player playing this game, a result to them is a win. They don't understand that 'hey, I'm getting better;' they need to see it on the scoreboard.
"That's what we're trying to get to right now, and we're getting better," he added. "We've got to play consistently the whole four quarters."
The Chiefs are a team that, having won just six games the previous three season after a decade-long run of success, are trying to turn the proverbial corner and look at the scoreboard as a measure of their success. Going 3-1 in their last four games is certainly a confidence-booster.
"That goes back to teams sometimes don't know how to win," Burke said. "We're all individual competitors, but to get 11 guys doing the same thing for the same purpose, competing that way, sometimes that's hard to do. Sometimes we want to do our own thing and not worry about what our job is on (a certain) play, but we're getting better at functioning as 11 guys together.
"We made some plays tonight that we hadn't made," he added. "Casey Phillips made a nice play on a ball in the end zone and ends up picking the ball off. We had (five) picks. We're starting to get comfortable in our positions, which allows us to make more plays. And when we're coming on and off the field, there's no hanging heads; we're prepared and ready for the next situation and we're not scared of that situation. We're able to turn that page and be ready to make a play."
Phillips intercepted two Portsmouth passes — both in the opening quarter — while Arnett, Dominic Micochero and Stevens all ended Portsmouth drives with pickoffs as well.
And DeLong's kickoff return to open the game certainly set a tone for the Chiefs.
"Those are free points (that are) nice to have in your pocket to buffer to score off special teams if you make a mistake somewhere," Burke said. "Things are falling into place and the kids are beginning to understand who they are, who we are, and what our roles are."
The Chiefs led 34-6 at halftime and 40-6 a little more than midway through the third stanza, and it looked like they could post 70 points if they kept it up... but they didn't need to.
"I said in the locker room at halftime that it's human nature to let off the gas a little bit, (to want to) get out of this game and move on to next week," Burke revealed. "What we need to do is show next week's opponent, and the (opponent) after that, what they're up against, that they're not (going to play) a team that got up big early and hung on to win.
"This is who we want to be as a team and as a program," he added. "That's the image we want to portray."
The Chiefs host Jackson (3-3), which won its league opener 35-20 Friday night at Warren, in a battle for the early conference lead next week while Portsmouth entertains pre-season favorite and defending champion Gallipolis.