Logan seniors play their final home game Friday night
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — If the realization that the season is nearly over hasn’t yet sunk in on the Logan Chieftains’ 14 seniors, it will no doubt do so Friday night.
At the conclusion of tomorrow night’s home finale against the Gallia Academy Blue Devils in Logan Chieftain Stadium, the seniors will clasp hands and walk from goal line to goal line for the traditional LHS “Senior Walk” to conclude their home football careers.
At that moment, all that will be left — win or lose — will be the final game of their prep careers the following week at Warren. And the goal is to make these last two games as memorable as possible.
Senior Night activities will be observed prior to Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff.
Those seniors know that they still have a chance — albeit a slim one — of tying for the Chiefs’ second-straight Southeastern Ohio Athletic League championship.
“You approach it… as you still have a job to do. That’s what you have to focus on,” said Baker, an offensive lineman for the Purple & White. “You can’t let everything else get in the way of what your job is to do. Our job is to win, and that’s what we plan to do.
“You can’t let the flashing lights (of Senior Night) get in front of you,” he continued. “We’re here to celebrate our last (home) game, but there’s still a game to be played.”
And that home game still has plenty of importance.
Gallipolis (4-4 overall, 2-0 SEOAL), tabbed for a fourth-place finish in a pre-season SEOAL prediction poll, enters Friday’s fray undefeated in league play and tied in the loss column with Jackson (8-0, 3-0) atop the league standings.
Even if the Chiefs (3-5, 1-1) beat them, the Blue Devils would still play for a share of the league crown next Friday when they host Jackson. The Ironmen have a big non-league game tomorrow night when they host 6-1 Ironton.
For the Chiefs, the equation is quite simple: they need to beat Gallipolis, then hope the Blue Devils upset the state-ranked Ironmen next week, to forge a three-way tie for the championship.
Should the Chiefs win tomorrow night, they’ll go from being the Blue Devils’ Friday-night enemy to their biggest fans in a matter of hours.
But with the Gallipolis-beating-Jackson portion of that scenario obviously out of the Chiefs’ control, all the Purple & White can do is focus on what they can accomplish on their own. If they win out, they would finish with a .500 (5-5) record and with no worse than a second-place SEOAL finish.
Losses to Jackson and Zanesville the last two weeks have dashed any hopes the Chieftains had of making their first post-season playoff appearance since 2009.
“Still competing with an outside chance for a league (title) is good,” said Logan coach Billy Burke, “but what I want for these young men is to be able to finish the season on a positive note and for the seniors to finish on a positive note: that way, the most recent memories they take with them are good ones.
“Maybe some of these young men will decide to coach,” he added. “As a coach, we get a chance to try again every single year. These (seniors) are down to two (games), and most of them won’t get a chance to try again as players. It (the final two games) is in their hands.”
Last week against Zanesville, the Chiefs committed three turnovers and only had the ball for 20 of the game’s 48 minutes. The offense produced just one touchdown against a very good Zanesville defense — Bryce McBride’s 67-yard scoring run in the third period — with the defense producing the other on Domonic Micochero’s 36-yard fumble return.
And they also victimized themselves in other ways.
Zanesville took advantage of a couple blown coverages in the Logan secondary, as well as a couple missed tackles on what should have been routine plays, to score a couple TDs and set up its other two scores.
“Everybody needs to do their job and execute, play hard, play mean and play together,” said Baker. “We need to put extra effort into what we’re doing.
“We’ve had a problem with being technically correct and (not) being in the right spots instead of actually just making plays,” he added.
“Sometimes, what it really comes down to is a lack of communication,” the second-year Chieftain coach said. “That’s a skill that young people this age have to learn (and) I don’t know if we’re good at it as a society these days.
“It’s simply communicating and double-checking with each other and making sure we have all of our bases covered,” he continued. “We can do that in practice all week long, but on the field on a Friday night we have to make sure the guy next to (a player) is on the same page and that guy is on the same page with the guy next to him.”
That’s what hurt the Chiefs last week, especially on a 44-yard touchdown pass that put the Blue Devils ahead to stay in the third quarter. A blown coverage left Zanesville receiver Olajuwon Pettiford wide open and wound up breaking a 14-14 tie.
“I’ve told the kids many times (that) if we’re all wrong together, then we’re actually right,” Burke said. “It doesn’t matter what coverage we run, as long as we run the same coverage together even though it’s not the coverage that was called. Then we have a fighting chance. (The problem comes) when we have some guys on different pages. That’s fixed by communicating with the guys to the left and right, and (then) they do the same thing with the guys to their left and right.
“The two biggest things you have to (account for) during a game are your alignment and your assignment,” he continued. “If you can get those two things done, then you give yourself a fighting chance if a guy happens to be a little bigger or faster than you. But if you give one or both of those two things away right off the bat, you put yourself in a significant hole.
“The bottom line is that you have to control all the things you can control. We’ll continue to work on that and stress and preach that to get those things done.”
The set of Blue Devils who invade Logan Chieftain Stadium on Friday night for Logan’s only home league game of the season bear some similarities to those who beat the Purple & White last week.
“They probably compare a lot to Zanesville,” Burke revealed. “They line up (on offense) in a lot of similar formations. They run a zone-read play that Zanesville ran last week, but they want their quarterback to keep (the ball) as opposed to last week when the quarterback didn’t tend to keep it.
“I thought we did an okay job of defending that play,” he added, but “we continue to struggle with the counter play. We’ve worked on that this week. Even though we haven’t seen a lot of that from Gallipolis, anybody who’s watching film (of the Chiefs) better install that play if they’re going to run the football on us. It’s kind of nice seeing a similar offense two games in a row.”
Misdirection plays run by the opponents’ offense have been a thorn in the Chiefs’ collective sides all season. Taking care of that aspect of the game is part of getting the Chiefs re-focused on their final two games — both on and prior to the Friday nights.
“A little bit of the focus has been taken by our lack of success in situations where we thought we could have been better,” Burke said. “We’ve run the gamut of emotions. We started the season super-duper high and didn’t come out in the ‘W’ column (heartbreaking losses to Lancaster and Teays Valley by a combined total of five points), and being so close and (not getting a win) might have taken its toll on us here and there.
“It’s been a goofy season in this being just the fourth home game and our last one at home,” he continued. “If we come out on top Friday night like we’re perfectly capable of doing, I think the emotions will set in.
“We do some different things on the last home game. Our seniors are allowed to bring somebody with them to go through the pregame experience with them, so those will be moments where it starts to kick in and begins to register that this is the last time they’re going to play here. Hopefully that emotion transfers to the game.”
There’s also been a bit of an adjustment in practice.
“As you get this late in the season, kids know what to do,” Burke pointed out. “They know the offensive and defensive assignments and sometimes things get a little monotonous at this point and time. We’ve done some things this week to re-invigorate us to start out practice.
“And we do have to remember that these are still kids,” he added. “We have to remember to work on these things and those things, but at the same time we’re still dealing with kids. It’s still got to be fun… and that balance is super-hard to achieve.”
And, as Baker said in agreeing with his coach, it’s also a matter of working hard the rest of the way to create lifetime memories… and memories from a 5-5 senior season would be more vivid than those from a 3-7 season.
“We want to make memories that we’re all going to remember when we’re 65,” Baker said. “It’s not really a single memory; it’s the total experience. There are so many (thus far) that I really can’t choose just one.”
A couple season-ending wins would certainly help add to that bank of memories later in life.