Early blocked punt knocks Chiefs back on their heels
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOUDONVILLE, Ohio — Many football fans who had made the long trip from Logan had barely gotten settled into their seats at Loudonville High School Friday night when Kolton Edmondson set the tone for what wound up being a 30-point Redbird victory.
Edmondson blocked a Chieftain punt deep in Logan territory, scooped it up and ran it in from 15 yards out to stake the Redbirds to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into what would eventually be a 43-13 Loudonville victory.
“We lack a little bit of gamer in us right now,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “And here’s what gamer is: gamer is stuff that’s almost impossible to simulate and emulate in practice that you have to crank up another notch on Friday night.
“We got a blocked punt because we aren’t physical and forceful in our pocket that’s supposed to protect the punter,” he added. “We just absorbed the guy and he runs over us and blocks a punt.”
The Chiefs had two punts blocked on the night and also let two fumbles get away, including a second-quarter squib kickoff that Loudonville recovered and turned into six points.
Loudonville turned all four Logan miscues into points — 27, to be exact — and therein lies the difference in Friday night’s game in rural Ashland County.
“We gave away two touchdowns in the first half, one being the blocked punt and one being when we can’t get on the ball that’s squirting around on a kickoff,” Burke said. “That goes back to where we just have to play some football sometimes. We can’t really emulate that in practice, either.
“Right now we’re in a situation where our young men need to pick up the pace,” he continued. “I told them after the game that we’re technically right when we do stuff, but we don’t make the extra effort to finish making the play. Until we can get that figured out as a group, things aren’t always going to go our way.”
And, still, the Chiefs were within striking distance late in the first half.
They turned Loudonville’s lone turnover — a fumble at the Redbird 38-yard line — into seven first-period points after having a long drive stall on downs at the Loudonville 11.
After picking up a first down on a Loudonville penalty, Logan quarterback Lane Little connected with receiver Chance Cox on a well-run post pattern that Cox turned into a 25-yard touchdown with 3:44 left in the period.
Edmondson then took over on offense, however, and the Chiefs really didn’t have an answer for him. He would throw two touchdown passes, run for another six points, rush for 129 yards and pass for 143 to account for a big chunk of Loudonville’s offense.
“As a guy who played football and coaches football, you have nothing but respect for guys (like Edmondson) who play hard and give it their all and really, truly honor the game the way it’s supposed to be,” Burke said in praise of Loudonville’s All-Ohio quarterback. “I told some of their guys coming off the field (after the game) that I really appreciate and respect how you play, how hard you guys play. I respect that.”
Edmondson drove the Redbirds 77 yards on eight plays for the go-ahead touchdown, completing a clutch third-and-10 pass to Tucker Bender for 15 yards and a first down to the Logan 16.
The Redbirds’ Jordan Wright then took a short Edmondson pass on the left side, broke free of a couple arm tackles, and scored the first of his three touchdowns with 10:54 left in the half.
Then came a strange sequence of events.
The Chiefs misplayed the ensuing kickoff and finally picked it up inside their own 5-yard line, but the official, apparently thinking the ball had crossed the goal line for an automatic touchback, whistled the play dead.
So, instead of being pinned deep in their own territory, the Chiefs got what amounted to a do-over on the kickoff. But the Chiefs didn’t handle the kick that was squibbed right down the middle and the Redbirds recovered on the Logan 30.
A 13-yard run by Edmondson helped the Redbirds get deep into scoring position, and he eventually scored from two yards out to make it 19-7 with 8:55 left in the half. It could have been worse, but the Redbirds missed an extra-point kick and failed on a 2-point conversion.
Edmondson did have one mishap on the evening. He shanked a 13-yard punt into the Loudonville stands that set the Chiefs up on the Loudonville 43-yard line later in the second quarter.
It took what seemed like forever (11 plays, actually) for the Purple & White to drive for their final points of the night.
Little converted a pair of fourth-down plays — a 10-yard pass to Isaiah Smith and, later, a 4-yarder to Casey Phillips inside the Loudonville 5 — to keep the drive going.
With first and goal from the 2-yard line, it took the Chiefs three plays to finally break through Loudonville’s defense and into the end zone, with Bryce McBride scoring from a yard out with 2:38 left in the half. The Chiefs missed the PAT kick, but hoped to go into the locker room down just 19-13.
Edmondson didn’t let that happen. He drove the Redbirds 68 yards on 12 plays and converted three third-down plays along the way, including a 17-yard run off a fake jet sweep to the Logan 7, and connected with a wide-open Garrett Quickle on a 4-yard scoring pass over the middle with just 10 seconds remaining.
That was a back-breaker, and the Chiefs never recovered.
Logan fumbled the ball away midway through the third period — that man Edmondson picked up the ball and returned it 11 yards to the Logan 20 — and the Redbirds ran two quick plays to score, with Wright going 12 yards, and then eight more for the TD.
Loudonville then blocked another Logan punt and, keyed by a 24-yard run by Edmondson, went the short 27-yard field for its final TD of the night, a 1-yard run by Wright, to make it 40-13 with 3:48 left in the third period.
The Chiefs drove deep into Loudonville territory on their next series — Little scrambled and then somehow found a leaping Cox, who made a circus catch for a 13-yard gain, and later connected with Smith for a 28-yard catch-and-run — but the series died after reaching the Loudonville 6. A 9-yard rushing loss and a 10-yard holding penalty pushed them out of scoring position.
Loudonville almost got a touchdown on its next series, but settled for a 25-yard field goal by Bender with 9:44 remaining. That gave the Redbirds a 30-point lead and activated the new running-clock rule against the Chiefs for the first time.
Logan was on the other end of a running-clock situation in a 55-7 win last week at Meigs.
“When you’re playing from behind you sometimes do things you don’t want to do, and you have to get out of your game plan a little bit,” Burke said. “The thing is, we have the same young men playing on both sides the same as (Loudonville) did, so we don’t have a different offense or defense.
“We have young men out there playing football who know what to do and are capable of doing it, but have to dial in and give us that extra effort,” he added.
The Chiefs now have to regroup in time for their first home game in a month when they host Nelsonville-York next Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
They also find themselves in a familiar place: winning the third game of the season and losing big to Loudonville in week four (it was 31-7 last season in Logan) heading into a week-five rivalry game with the Buckeyes.
“We’re all familiar with the exact-same scenario,” Burke acknowledged. “We thought we played well a week before we faced a great Loudonville team, and we make (too many) mistakes. That’s the biggest thing.
“I can take getting beat physically (and) I can take getting beat by a team that’s better-executing,” he added, “but the mistakes that we made are really inexcusable. You put yourself at a true disadvantage.”