Tricks and treats for Chiefs on Senior Night
By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — Wait a minute. Trick or treat is Sunday, and Halloween isn’t until next Friday.
So how, then, do you explain the strange, bizarre high school football game played Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium?
For the most part, the Logan Chieftains weren’t worried about trying to explain it: they were simply more than happy to break a two-game losing streak with a 28-7 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League victory over the visiting Gallia Academy Blue Devils on Senior Night.
The Chiefs certainly enjoyed a few treats.
They had a pair of one-play, one-yard scoring “drives” that were set up by a strange 42-yard punt return by alert junior Colton Stilwell and by a punt that was blocked in the Gallipolis end zone by Brandon Arnett that popped out to the GAHS 1-yard line.
And they were also victimized by a few tricks.
The Blue Devils’ lone touchdown came as the result of a 66-yard touchdown pass that was deflected by a Logan defender into the hands of a Gallipolis receiver, who bobbled it for several yards before turning and finding nothing but empty real estate between him and the goal line.
The Chiefs lost standout running back Bryce McBride to a leg injury a little more than midway through the first quarter, and briefly lost their second running back, senior Dean Jordan, in the third period. Jordan returned, but McBride didn’t.
But the cruelest trick of all was having their quarterback, junior Lane Little, ejected from the game in the third quarter for a personal foul that will end his 2014 season.
An ejection results in an automatic one-game suspension from the Ohio High School Athletic Association, meaning Little will have to sit out next week’s season finale at Warren.
And, since the Logan-Hocking School District matches OHSAA suspensions, Little will also have to sit out the first varsity contest in the next sport he plays. Barring a successful appeal, Little will also have to sit out the basketball team’s Dec. 6 season opener against Unioto.
Senior Chance Cox came in at QB and successfully channeled the ghosts of 2013, when the Chiefs played with a quarterback who was basically an extra running back and rarely threw the ball.
It was 14-0 Chiefs at the time of Little’s ejection. With the defense playing by far its best game of the season, the Purple & White maintained control and pulled away in the final quarter.
With McBride and Little out of the game, a lot of players had to make adjustments.
“Chance would have been, under normal circumstances, our backup quarterback this season,” said Burke, whose Chiefs improved to 4-5 overall and pulled into a second-place tie with Gallipolis in the SEOAL at 2-1. “Chance was ready. We had him prepared to do a little bit of what we did a year ago and guys remembered.
“We think (center) Zach Buckley feels more confident when the quarterback’s under center,” he added. Senior Caleb Lewellen came in at QB on the first play after Little was ejected. But Cox then came in to take direct snaps from center “and then I thought, no, Zach’s just going to have to step up. And Zach stepped up; he obviously didn’t have any bad snaps. Zach played pretty confident when we were asking him to snap out of shotgun.”
The Logan defense swarmed the short-handed Gallia Academy (4-5, 2-1) offense all night long. The Blue Devils managed just 22 yards on 23 running plays, with their longest run from scrimmage being just eight yards.
That 66-yard TD pass — from Kole Carter to Eric Sheets in the fourth period — accounted for more than half of Gallia Academy’s 125 total yards from scrimmage. The Devils only had three first downs all night: two in the final minute of the opening quarter, and the first down credited for the TD pass.
Gallipolis was forced to punt seven times, turned the ball over on downs twice, lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted.
“We had some opportunities,” said first-year Gallia Academy coach Josh Riffe, “but we gave Logan way more opportunities than they needed. That’s a good football team. Their record does not (indicate) how good that football team is and the caliber of teams they’ve played so far.
“They’ve played two teams (Jackson and Loudonville) that are undefeated, and looking at someone (being) 3-5 doesn’t dictate who they are,” he added. “We fought and we were competitive. You don’t want to make excuses, but injuries hurt and (then) you have to play some guys out of position. But Logan just outplayed us tonight.”
That the Chiefs did.
“It’s no secret that we’ve struggled on defense this year,” Burke said. “We worked our tails off and credit to the kids and the coaching staff for taking it to heart and continuing to work on it. I don’t care who you are playing; that was a really solid defensive performance we had tonight.
“Guys like D.J. Madison stepped up, Kory Henthorne, you name it… we had guys who came in for Bryce when he got dinged up and had linebackers and running backs coming in for him,” he continued. “Lots of credit goes to a lot of different guys tonight.”
Lineman and co-captain Keith Martin, one of 14 Chieftain seniors who made the traditional post-game Senior Walk across the Logan Chieftain Stadium turf, couldn’t have been prouder of his team’s performance.
“I think our offensive line had its best performance all year,” Martin said. “We were all communicating and our defense was in synch. We had some mistakes and some missteps, but the biggest thing was that we just played for each other this week.
“This was us,” he added. Tonight “was how Logan football is. We had to get back on track and I really feel we did that tonight.”
With Gallipolis struggling against the Logan defense — other than their long TD play, the Blue Devils never got any closer than the Logan 17-yard line — it was a matter of the Chiefs putting together enough offense to take control.
It looked like it would be a blowout early, as the Chiefs took a 14-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game.
Logan scored on its opening possession, with Little hooking up with Isaiah Smith with a slant pass for a 4-yard touchdown play to complete a 9-play, 59-yard drive. The Chiefs missed the extra-point kick.
The Chiefs forced the Blue Devils to punt on the next series, and that’s when things began to get goofy.
A Dylan Saunders punt from the Gallipolis 36-yard line rolled inside the Logan 45-yard line, where a Gallipolis punt-coverage man accidentally kicked it backwards while attempting to down it.
However, since the Chiefs hadn’t touched it — and the Blue Devils hadn’t downed it — the ball was still very much alive. Stilwell alertly picked it up at the GAHS 43 and the slow-reacting Blue Devils didn’t stop him until he got to the 1-yard line.
Arnett — who carried the ball for the first time this season in this game — went off right tackle for the score, and Little then connected with Madison on a 2-point conversion pass for a 14-0 lead with 4:30 left in the opening period.
The Blue Devils twice got to the Logan 17-yard line in the second period. They were pushed back on penalties the first time, then Brendan Karns picked off a Carter pass at the Logan 20 to end the second threat.
With 8:10 left in the third period, Little hit Cox with a pass to the left sideline for a short gain. It looked like Cox might have been hit after the whistle and a flag went flying — but it was in the Logan offensive backfield, where an official ruled that Little had kicked a GAHS foe and ejected him.
Jordan was hurt on a running play two plays later and, since he also doubles as Logan’s punter, he had to come out for a play. Smith filled in with a 30-yard kick — but at that very moment, the Chiefs were without their first-string quarterback, both of their running backs and their punter.
While it took awhile for the Logan offense to adjust, they got a couple assists from the defense.
Arnett recovered a fumble at the Gallipolis 3-yard line, but the Chiefs gave the ball up on downs when, on fourth-and-goal from the GAHS 7, a Cox pass intended for Smith was deflected by a Gallia defender and the junior made the reception but was knocked out of bounds inches from the goal line.
But, a little later, Arnett blocked a GAHS punt in the end zone. Gallipolis eventually recovered the elusive pigskin at the Logan 1, but had to give it up on downs, and Smith then scored by cutting a jet sweep inside with 11:42 remaining.
The Chiefs — who haven’t recorded a shutout since 2010 — lost their shutout bid when a Carter pass was apparently intercepted by a Logan defensive back, only to pop into the air and into Sheets’ hands. Sheets had trouble controlling the ball as well, but finally wrested it away from another Logan DB and went the 66-yard distance.
No worries, however. Cox led a late 8-play, 47-yard scoring drive that culminated with an insurance 1-yard TD run by Jordan with 3:16 remaining.
“It was completely a night I’m not going to forget,” Martin said with a huge grin. “ I’m going to remember this — the radical moments, Lane getting ejected, all the penalties, the back-and-forth… it was an amazing night, it really was.
“As coach Burke said, this night really takes the cake,” he added, “just because there was so much that happened. It was this game itself that’s going to make my senior year something to remember. It was just ridiculous.”
“I can see the kids sitting down someday and saying ‘hey, remember when so-and-so came in and we had to do this and that and (how) everyone stepped up and played.’ “ Burke said. “Sometimes (Senior Night is) the culmination of all the games you have played. There are games that stick out more than others over your career, but this certainly is one that’s going to stick out to them — and it just so happens to also be the last home game that they play.”
But there’s one more game to play, and the Chiefs are going to have to make some major adjustments as they prepare to wind things up next Friday at Warren.
“That’s our job as coaches, to figure out the guys we have (to work with), what their strengths are and what can they do for us,” Burke said. “It will be a little bit different. But basically you can pull out the old Nick Kost films (Kost was last year’s running quarterback) and that will be something we might expect next week.
“Chance will get all the reps this week so he’ll be prepared,” he added, “and we’ll prepare Caleb to come in. We’ll get (lineman) Josh Rardain back and we’ll get Tommy (Hayden) and Keith a week healthier. We have some guys coming back but, unfortunately, now we’ve got some guys we’ve got to replace.”