By CRAIG DUNN Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
LOGAN — It’s awfully difficult to swing momentum in your favor when you can’t establish any in the first place.
Such was the case for the Logan Chieftains — a team already in transition two weeks into the young football season — in a 26-13 non-league setback at the hands of visiting Teays Valley Friday night in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Teays Valley (2-0) dominated the Chiefs (0-2) in the first half. The Vikings’ 20-6 halftime advantage could have been more substantial had an officiating crew that must have thought it was getting paid by the penalty not called back a pair of TV touchdown runs.
The mess of laundry on the field was ugly, the Chiefs’ inability to tackle in open space was ugly, and the numbers were ugly, especially in the first half.
The Chiefs began making the transition to having senior Nick Kost, who was originally slated to play in the backfield primarily in wildcat formations, as their starting quarterback in the absence of starter Lane Little, who is out indefinitely after breaking a collarbone last week at Lancaster.
“With Nick moving to quarterback we had to move some other guys around,” said Logan coach Billy Burke. “We had some guys on defense playing out of position.
“But,” Burke emphasized, “we didn’t make tackles, and that’s really the name of the game. You can line up in any sort of defensive front you want (and) if you make tackles, it doesn’t matter. If you make tackles, you have a chance to win.”
Teays Valley — especially elusive junior Anthony Jones, who rushed for 165 yards on 16 carries, almost all of them as the result of option pitches — ran through and around several would-be Chieftain tacklers most of the night as the Vikings piled up 384 total yards… 340 of them on the ground.
“That’s the bottom line,” Burke stated. “When you make contact for a 3-yard gain, then you allow them 10 more yards, you can only do that so many times before you run out of field and they score.”
And that’s what Teays Valley did in the first half.
“With our option offense, our goal is to establish and win the battle on the line of scrimmage,” said Teays Valley coach Steve Evans. “I thought we were able to do a great job of doing that in the first half. (The Chiefs) can’t score points when their offense isn’t on the field. I don’t know if then ran 10 plays the whole first half (10 exactly, as noted earlier) because it seemed like our offense was out there all the time.”
That was the case most of the night. Teays Valley doubled the score on the Chiefs, all but doubled time of possession (31:02 to 16:58) and only allowed Logan to run 40 plays from scrimmage.
Neither team could get into much of a flow most of the night because the officials called holding penalty after holding penalty, then resorted to several ticky-tack 5-yarders, which bogged the game down. In a way, the officials were the leading ground-gainers on the night, whistling the two teams for 221 total yards (17 miscues on TV for 135 yards and 11 for 86 against the Chiefs) in penalties.
The Vikings took the lead for good when quarterback Drew Pennington culminated a five-play, 63-yard drive with a 5-yard scoring run up the middle with 4:55 left in the opening period. Kicker Thad Smith — more on him later — added the extra point.
On the ensuing kickoff, Logan kick returners Isaac Schmeltzer and Dominick Stevens collided and the ball squirted free, throwing off the timing of the converging Teays Valley kick-coverage team.
Schmeltzer scooped the ball up at the 5-yard line, found a lane down the right sideline and rambled to paydirt 95 yards away, tying a record for the longest kickoff return in LHS history, equaling the feats of Bill Shaw (1939) and Alex Clutter (1995). Logan missed the extra point.
Teays Valley then controlled the ball, the clock, and what little momentum there was to be had.
“Offensively we tried to develop some new continuity with a new quarterback and do some new things on offense, and it was hard to do that,” Burke said.
Undeterred by the Chiefs’ special teams TD, the Vikings embarked on an eight-play, 53-yard scoring drive, aided by the Chiefs being whistled for a 15-yard facemask penalty on the kickoff return and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the drive.
Jones had a 22-yard scoring run called back on — yeah, you guessed it — a holding penalty, but later had a key 17-yard run to set up Tyler Robinson’s 4-yard scoring run with 50 seconds left in the opening period.
It looked like Logan might go into the locker room down just 14-6, but the Vikings drove 55 yards on 10 plays late in the second period to get into range for Smith to boot a 31-yard field goal with 19.9 seconds remaining.
The Chiefs then fumbled the ball away on a high snap from center on their first play from scrimmage and the Vikings recovered at the Logan 27-yard line with five seconds left.
Smith was called upon to attempt another field goal, and his 44-yarder just cleared the crossbar as time expired for a 20-6 Vikings lead at the intermission.
The two coaches differed when it came to their feelings about events of the final seconds.
“It would be different if we’d had any momentum whatsoever in the first half, but we didn’t have any momentum going,” Burke said, so “I don’t think that fumbling the snap and them getting a field goal out of it made much of a difference at all.”
Evans did, though.
“We felt we left some points on the field the first half,” Evans stated. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and there were (all the) yellow flags on the field. Our offense isn’t built for first-and-20. We’d get a good run, and it would get called back.
“I thought the field goal right before half was big momentum-wise,” he continued. Logan was “hanging in the game right with us, and we were able to get that turnover. We debated (trying one offensive play) and I felt we were a little out of range of our kicker, but we tried it and it worked out good for us.”
The Chiefs didn’t earn a first down until the Vikings were called for a pass interference penalty with five minutes left in the third quarter, and that also happened to mark the first time the Logan offense crossed midfield into Teays Valley territory.
Early in the final period, Logan drove to the TV 39-yard line, where Kost was stopped short of a first down on fourth-and-inches. Two plays later, Jones took a pitchout around right end, turned the corner and went 58 yards down the right sideline for an insurance score with 5:32 to play.
Talk about a momentum-changing turn of events.
Logan came back with a 13-play, 55-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard TD run by Kost with 2:29 remaining, but it was too little, too late as the Chiefs were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick.
While the Chiefs played the Vikings even in the second half, that, in Burke’s opinion, was misleading.
“Sure, but what’s unrealistic about that is that Teays Valley has a lead and Teays Valley’s holding on to go home and we’re trying to prove ourselves and find out what kind of players we are,” Burke said. “But it was nice to see that we could get some things going.
“I thought our defensive adjustment at halftime worked,” he continued, “but still, if we’re not making tackles — which we’ve worked on religiously since July — there’s not much else you can do.”
The Vikings are thus 2-0 going into their final non-conference game of the season next week at Chillicothe.
“A win like to tonight was ugly, with all the (penalty) hankies out there,” Evans said, “but anytime you leave the field and you have a W… I’ll take an ugly win over a good loss. I don’t think there’s ever a good loss.”
Next Friday, the Chiefs host 0-2 Newark, which has lost to powerful Zanesville and, last night, 42-35 to a Westerville North team that broke a 45-game losing streak the week before.
“The complexion of our team has changed twice in two weeks,” Burke said. “We look different at quarterback (and) we look different at linebacker (in) week two than we did week one, and we’ll probably look different again next week. We have to figure out a game plan to beat Newark and take it from there.”