Warriors hold off determined Chieftains, 32-21
By CRAIG DUNN
PATASKALA — On the surface, you could say all that prevented the Logan Chieftains from their first football victory of the season Friday night was three huge plays by host Watkins Memorial.
It’s certainly easy to say that in retrospect. But in all fairness to the Warriors, you also have to give huge credit to their lockdown second-half defense as well as some costly Chieftain miscues.
The Warriors built a 19-point first-half lead on a fumble return, a 65-yard pass play and an 81-yard kickoff return, then had to hold off a determined rally by the Purple & White to earn a 32-21 victory at Watkins Memorial’s Ascena Field.
Down 19-0 in the early going and 25-7 late in the second stanza, the Chiefs pulled within 25-14 at halftime after Ian Frasure hooked up with Brandon Heft on a 20-yard scoring pass, then closed the gap to 25-21 a little more than two minutes into the third quarter when Caden McCarty blocked a Watkins punt and recovered it in the end zone.
But that defensive score was the only points the Chiefs were destined to get in the second half.
At times the Chieftains (0-6) were their own worst enemy. They committed four turnovers (two interceptions and a like number of fumbles), committed 100 yards’ worth of penalties, and fell way behind before finally getting their act together.
But as exciting as the Chiefs made it, and despite the all-out enthusiasm and effort they put into the entire evening, it wound up being too little, too late as the Warriors (3-3) were able to hang on.
“We talked all last week about atmosphere, intensity and effort. We changed up the way we practiced all week and tried to add a little more excitement to the practices every day to try and create a little bit of energy,” said Logan coach Mike Eddy. “Tonight, we saw a completely different team before the game. We knew we had to kind of create our own atmosphere and be excited to go play, and I thought we were able to generate that tonight.
“And that’s the difference why at the beginning we didn’t get down mentally,” he added. “We just continued to play.”
The Chiefs came out flat last week at Logan Elm and paid for it, finding themselves down 35-0 in the first half of a game they eventually lost 48-21.
But last night, even with the Warriors hitting big play after big play, this time the Chieftains kept their poise and intensity.
“We’re going to go back and look at this and man, we’re going to see a ton of mistakes,” Eddy said. “The penalty yards were just outrageous…and you couple that with some other things out there (when) we were second (down) and third (down) and binocular distance (yardage to go). There’s no offensive play for that.
“The good news is I thought we played so much better defensively,” he added. Watkins Memorial “was a team that was loaded with athletes. I thought our guys did a great job, being an undersized team on defense, of being able to make them earn those yards on the ground. I thought we covered pretty well out in space and got a little pressure on the quarterback.”
With McCarty rushing for 124 yards and scoring twice, adding a 25-yard rushing TD to his blocked punt score, Logan outgained Watkins Memorial 238-220 in total offense on the night. But the Chiefs managed just 10 yards of total offense in the second half, where they had to punt the ball away four times without ever crossing over to the Watkins side of the 50-yard line.
The Chiefs fumbled the ball away on their own 20-yard line on their first play from scrimmage and the Warriors took full advantage, scoring in just four plays on a 9-yard run by Gage Lowery, who would rush for 102 yards on the night.
It stayed 7-0 until the two teams combined for 32 points in a wild second quarter that saw the Chiefs register most of their yards and eight of their 10 first downs on offense.
When quarterback Ian Frasure was sacked and the ball got away early in the second period, WM’s Mason Swearingen picked it up and went 35 yards with a scoop-and-score. Then, after an interception, WM quarterback Liston Shroyer went deep to Zach Christensen, who got behind the Logan defense for a 65-yard scoring bomb that made it 19-0 with 9:36 left in the half.
It appeared the rout was on. But the Chiefs bowed their collective backs and went 71 yards on just six plays to paydirt, with McCarty going the final 25 yards to close Logan within 19-7 after Zach Chapin booted the extra point with 7:09 left in the half.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Watkins junior Jaleel Sales gathered the ball in at the WM 19-yard line and went up the middle nearly untouched for an 81-yard kick return. The Warriors failed to get any conversion points for a third-straight time but led 25-7 with 6:56 left in the half.
The Chiefs again maintained their composure and burned through five-and-a-half minutes of game clock in going 60 yards on 10 plays to get that TD back.
With McCarty finding running room in getting the ball down to the WM 20, Frasure found Heft at the goal line, where he made the catch for six points with 1:25 remaining in the half. Chapin kicked the Chieftains within 25-14 at the intermission.
When Watkins Memorial was held to a three-and-out on the opening series of the third quarter and was forced to punt, McCarty found a lane to the punter and blocked the kick.
The ball caromed into the end zone, where McCarty outran everyone else — he already had a running start on the block — and fell on it near the back end line for another touchdown that pulled Logan within 25-21 after Chapin converted the PAT with 9:38 to play in the third quarter.
But the Chieftains wouldn’t get close to scoring again…not on offense, anyway.
Midway through the final quarter Shroyer was hit on a scramble and the ball popped loose. Henry Pierce came oh-so-close to scooping it up, with nothing in front of him but open space to the end zone, but couldn’t find the handle and the ball went out of bounds.
Watkins Memorial would then ice the win, aided by a bit of drama.
A 49-yard punt by Frasure went down to the WM 31, where Sales made a play on the ball as the Chiefs readied to down it. He slipped between a couple surprised Logan coverage men and brought the ball back 32 yards to the Logan 37.
The Warriors then gave the ball to Lowery six-straight times and the WM senior scored on a 1-yard run with 1:41 remaining to ice the victory.
“We gave them the ball inside the 20 early, we gave up the kick return and they had a scoop-and-score. Sometimes that’s just football,” Eddy said. “Those are physical mistakes…you have to live with the physical mistakes because they’re going to happen.
“It’s the mental mistakes you can’t deal with,” he added. “I thought overall we did a much-better job with that part of it. We were a much better football team tonight than we’ve been in a long time. I was so proud of those guys to see that. It just shows their mental toughness and their work ethic.”
And Eddy also gave credit where credit was due to the Watkins Memorial defense.
“They did a great job of making some defensive adjustments at halftime and taking away some things that we were having a lot of success with,” Eddy pointed out. “Then we were back to trying to re-solve the puzzle. We went back to those things a couple times to test it out and sure enough, it wasn’t there. Now it’s going back and having to re-invent yourself in the second half, and I didn’t feel that we were in plus-yardage situations enough offensively to really be able to do that. With the penalties setting us back now you’re just closing your eyes and picking a play.
“Their kids did a great job of being able to cover us man-to-man so when we tried to throw the football the quarterback really didn’t have anyplace to go with it a lot of times,” he continued. “Hat’s off to them. That’s a good football team.
“One of the things I tried to express to the kids after the game was ‘you just went toe-to-toe with a team good enough to host a playoff game (Columbus Northland in a Division II game) next week.’ We had opportunities to win this game. That shows the kids the caliber of football team they can be and hopefully it’s that motivation to just keep working.”
Speaking of playoffs, the Chiefs now prepare for a Division II playoff tilt — Logan’s first playoff appearance in 11 years — next Friday night at Big Walnut (3-3), which lost 15-14 to Dublin Scioto last night.
Since this is the first time that all Ohio teams have been afforded access to the playoffs in any given season, the Chieftains could make history by becoming the state’s first-ever winless team to turn around and win a playoff game.
It could happen if the Chiefs show the same intensity and desire next week up in Sunbury that they did last night in Pataskala.
“We’re still a team with some starters out but overall, tonight we were the team I think we were meant to be,” Eddy said. “Now if we can take that football team and take away those mistakes, I think now you can see who this team is really supposed to be.
“The hardest sell this week is (going to be that) we’re 0-6 but we can’t quit,” he added, “and these kids have been great about it. That’s got to be our focus as coaches this week…we have to keep these guys energized and focused and hungry to go win.”
Watkins Memorial 32, Logan 21
Logan 0 14 7 0—21
Watkins 7 18 0 7—32
WM: Gage Lowery 9 run (Max Deckop kick), 10:16, 1Q
WM: Mason Swearingen 35 fumble return (kick blocked), 10:57, 2Q
WM: Zach Christensen 65 pass from Liston Shroyer (run failed), 9:36, 2Q
Logan: Caden McCarty 25 run (Zach Chapin kick), 7:09, 2Q
WM: Jaleel Sales 81 kickoff return (pass failed), 6:56, 2Q
Logan: Brandon Heft 20 pass from Ian Frasure (Chapin kick), 1:25, 2Q
Logan: McCarty blocked punt recovery in end zone (Chapin kick), 9:38, 3Q
WM: Lowery 1 run (Deckop kick), 1:41, 4Q
Team Statistics LO WM
First Downs 10 10
Offensive Plays 43 47
Rushes-Yards 31-195 36-99
Passing Yards 43 121
Total Yards 238 220
Passes 6-12-2 6-11-0
Punts-Avg. 5-41.0 5-24.8
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 8-100 3-25
Possession 24:07 23:53
Rushing — Logan: Caden McCarty 18-124 1TD, Ian Frasure 10-61, Traten Poling 2-17, team 1-(-7). WM leaders: Gage Lowery 23-102 2TD, Jaleel Sales 1-21.
Passing — Logan: Ian Frasure 6-12-2—43 1TD. WM: Liston Shroyer 6-11-0—121 1TD.
Receiving — Logan: Traten Poling 2-5, Brandon Heft 1-20 1TD, Jonny McClelland 1-10, Caden McCarty 1-4, Henry Pierce 1-4. WM leaders: Zach Christensen 2-74 1TD, Caleb Wheeler 2-37.