By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — For the Loudonville Redbirds, Friday’s two-hour trek from Ashland County to the Hocking Hills was well worth the trip.
The Redbirds were as good a football team as advertised. They thoroughly overwhelmed the Logan Chieftains 31-7 in Logan Chieftain Stadium on a night where there was little for the fans clad in purple and white to cheer about.
“They’re absolutely a pretty good football team, particularly from a defensive perspective,” said Logan coach Billy Burke, whose Chiefs fell to 1-3. “They played right to our weaknesses. They got right after us and we weren’t able to establish an offense.”
At the time, with 3:40 left in the first half, the play enabled the Chieftains to draw even at 7-7. However, that was about the only time the Logan defense stopped the undefeated (4-0) Redbirds all night.
“If we could get some stops on defense…” Burke said. “We had a great game plan to do that (but) we just didn’t execute. That’s who we are right now. When we lose it’s (because) we don’t execute and we don’t do the things we worked on and have been coached up to do all week long.”
The Chiefs were, once again, playing short-handed. Already missing starting quarterback Lane Little, they were also without starters Bryce McBride and Caleb Lewellen, neither of whom played due to injury, and another starter, Dean Jordan, sat out the game (and will also miss next week’s game at Nelsonville-York) due to a late-week school suspension.
Loudonville’s defense, which had allowed only 19 points all season, was an impenetrable brick wall as far as the Chiefs were concerned. They couldn’t run through or around it, and they couldn’t pass over it.
The result was an offense that registered minus-6 yards of total offense — including minus-30 yards on the ground, tying the second-lowest single-game rushing output in school history.
All three of the Chiefs who ran the ball — running backs Isaac Schmeltzer and Cole Baron and quarterback Nick Kost — had negative yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Loudonville offense fared just fine — except for DeLong’s pick-six, which broke the school record of 96 yards set by Kermit Graham against Jackson in 1986 — rolling up 404 total yards, 338 of them on the ground.
Edmondson, a 6-0, 180-pound junior who was converted to quarterback this season, was at his best running the ball, carrying 17 times for 156 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Ryan Weber, a 6-0, 215-pound senior, added 137 yards on 22 carries.
The Logan defense had its hands full all night long bringing both of them down; there was one instance where no less than nine Chieftains piled on Weber trying to bring him down… and all they could do was stand him up long enough for the officials to whistle the play dead.
Loudonville took its first possession of the game 68 yards on 11 plays to paydirt, with Austin VanSickle scoring on a 1-yard run with 5:32 left in the opening period.
However, near the end of the quarter, Edmondson was stopped by Gabe Smith on a fake punt and Logan took over at the Loudonville 48-yard line.
The Redbirds subsequently forced the Chiefs to punt — and a great kick by Charles Bowlby was downed by the Chiefs at the Loudonville 1-yard line — but the visitors were called for holding and Logan decided to take the penalty and go for the first down on fourth-and-inches. Kost then got three yards on a keeper to keep the drive alive.
An 11-yard run by Schmeltzer (the Chiefs’ longest play from scrimmage all night) and a pass interference penalty on the Redbirds — which accounted for Logan’s final first down of the game with around 10 minutes left in the second stanza — helped the Chieftains reach the Loudonville 9-yard line.
But, on fourth and eight, the Chiefs elected not to attempt a field goal and were stopped on a broken play at the Loudonville 15.
“We had a chance and didn’t convert,” Burke said. “That would have made it a game.”
The Redbirds then drove to the Logan 4-yard line. On third-and-goal, DeLong stepped in front of Edmondson’s intended receiver a yard deep in the end zone, picked off the pass and set sail for the other end of Logan Chieftain Stadium running down the Loudonville sideline. No one in a white Loudonville uniform got close enough to make a tackle once he got past the 10-yard line.
Though that tied the score, the Redbirds were undaunted. They simply drove the ensuing possession 72 yards on nine plays and scored when Edmondson went off right tackle for a 2-yard TD run with 33.7 seconds left in the half as Loudonville took a 14-7 intermission advantage.
Edmondson scored touchdowns on runs of 59 and 20 yards in the second half and Tucker Bender — a descendent of Loudonville native Tom Bender, one of the original members of the Logan High School Athletic Hall of Fame — kicked a fourth-quarter field goal as the Redbirds pulled away.
And the Loudonville defense tightened the screws, forcing Logan into five-straight three-and-out possessions in the second half. Logan did not get a first down the final 34 minutes of the game.
“They played their tails off,” Burke said in praising the Redbirds. “Hats off to Loudonville.”
With the Chiefs playing several players short, there’s very little room for error, and that was especially so Friday night against a solid Loudonville team that will likely make the state Division V playoffs.
Now the Chiefs need to regroup — and hopefully get some players healthy — as they prepare to visit neighborhood rival Nelsonville-York next week.
Burke was asked how the Chiefs would regroup.
“Here’s what I said to the kids: where does any family go that has some turmoil and adversity that faces their family?” Burke said. “You don’t bail on your family or on each other; you stick together and you continue to fight to figure out how you can get through this (and) how you can get better.
“Ultimately, win or lose next week, win or lose this season, you stick to it, you keep fighting through the adversity and it makes you a better human being,” he added. “That’s (what) we can learn from this game.”