LOGAN — At the outset of their 2013 football season, the Logan Chieftains have played schools their own size (Division II Teays Valley) or larger (Division I Lancaster and Newark) but play only one school their size (DII Zanesville in week eight) the rest of the way.
Don’t mistake smaller for weaker, however.
One of the smallest schools on Logan’s 2013 schedule — Division V Loudonville — may very well be one of the top three or four foes the Purple & White face this season.
Loudonville becomes the third-straight team to make its inaugural football visit to Hocking County Friday night (7:30 p.m. kickoff) when the undefeated Redbirds from Ashland County visit Logan Chieftain Stadium to take on the 1-2 Chieftains.
“They’ve got some really nice athletes,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “I think they are a lot like Teays Valley, especially on defense. Offensively they run the ball outside — sort of the same toss-sweep we saw from Teays Valley — so we’ve seen this style before. We think we’ve made some corrections to defend (that kind of scheme).
“They want to establish a running game and we have to be prepared for that,” he continued. “We have the game plan in place to be able to make the adjustments and not be so one-dimensional as we had to be last week.”
The Chiefs were one-dimensional defensively against Newark because 39 of the Wildcats’ 54 plays from scrimmages were passes, and several of Newark’s running plays were either scrambles or sacks. When Logan got ahead 19-0, the Wildcats went almost exclusively to the air.
“We could see on film that Newark wanted to run the football,” Burke said. “Any team that has success passing the football wants to have a running game to take that pressure off, but we were able to make them one-dimensional.”
The Chiefs have faced diverse offensive schemes thus far. Lancaster rushed for 518 yards; Teays Valley held the ball on offense for nearly 32 minutes, and Newark passed for 469 yards. The yardage by Lancaster and Newark is the most ever allowed by a Logan football team in single games.
Loudonville tries to be a little of both. The Redbirds are enjoying success, outscoring their opponents 135-19 after having switched from being a power-running team to a spread offense this season to take advantage of several excellent athletes… something like the Chieftains themselves did in 2008 and 2009.
So, since this is the first time the two schools have ever played in football — and probably, for that matter, in any other varsity team sport as well — the Chiefs don’t have a blueprint on what to totally expect from the Redbirds. The Teays Valley game is fairly close.
While the Chiefs had plans to diversify their offense last week against Newark, they didn’t have to. Quarterback Nick Kost ran for 105 yards — becoming the first Logan QB to rush for at least 100 yards since Patrick Angle in 2008 — and only had to throw four times. Again, that was because the Purple & White built a 19-0 lead less than eight minutes into the contest en route to a 32-27 victory.
“We’re going to use whatever’s working,” Burke stated. “We didn’t feel the need to have to pass the ball in that game; we were able to move the ball on the ground effectively. We did have an early lead — and a lot of it was set up by (Logan’s) defense — but we’re going to continue to work the passing games and do things that can be successful for Nick.
“We didn’t have to do some of those things (against Newark) because we weren’t put in the situation to have to test out some of our passing game that we’ve tweaked,” he added. “We’re prepared for that this Friday if we need.”
That’s another good thing about last week’s victory: the Chiefs didn’t tip their hand to Loudonville about their revamped passing scheme because, well, they simply didn’t have to.
“Some people don’t necessarily realize that what you are preparing to put into your arsenal (that) next week’s opponent doesn’t have to see,” Burke said. “If you can handle a game on the ground, then you don’t have to show some of your passing game.”
Like last week, however, the Chiefs are again nicked up physically, to say the least. And, although Loudonville is a D5 school, the Redbirds have the biggest offensive line in school history, averaging 230 pounds… excellent size for a D5 school.
“The situation is similar” to last week, Burke noted. “We get some kids back and we have other kids banged up. The hardest part is coaching a kid up in a new position who hasn’t been there. Sometimes we’re moving a kid into a (new) position that week, so we have to take four, five, six weeks of pre-season football and wrap it up into one week and then put a kid in the game.
“As long as we play hard, and play with some energy, it’s easier to do that,” he continued, “but if we’re struggling to do other things and motivate ourselves, then it makes it that much harder to get a kid ready each week.”
After opening the season with two tough losses, being able to be competitive — and win — against Newark was a great confidence booster for the Purple & White.
“We’re not where I anticipated we’d be (at this point of the season) in the sense that our offense and defense looks a little different than we planned on four weeks ago,” Burke said. “But, what’s more important than that, is the energy, passion and competitiveness we are playing with. All sorts of different offensive and defensive schemes have won championships; it’s really how you come to play every day that makes a difference.
“Each time the offenses or defenses would go onto the field after a score or a change of possession” last week, he continued, “you felt the kids were coming out onto the field ready to play. We talked about body language before the game Friday night: it happened to be Friday the 13th, and one of my references was ‘who is one of the toughest guys you’ve ever seen other than Jason (in the Friday the 13th movies) whose body language speaks volumes? That’s the point we wanted to get to. Our body language and our readiness spoke volumes that we were ready for whatever was put in front of us.”
Hopefully that will be the case this week as well.
“I’m very curious how we go about this week coming off a win,” Burke revealed. “I’ve seen how we continue to prepare and keep working hard after a loss. Do we keep that same sort of mentality during our week of preparation this week coming off a win? It ultimately comes down to who’s going to make a few more plays and make a few less mistakes.”