THE PLAINS — So just where is it written that you can’t be both lucky and good to win a football game?
Admittedly, the Logan Chieftains were fortunate not to have allowed four or five touchdowns in the first half of Friday night’s game at Athens… but at the same time, the Purple & White were good, and highly deserving of their 46-20 shellacking of the Bulldogs at historic R. Basil Rutter Field.
Logan scored 32 unanswered points in breaking a 7-7 tie to build a lead substantial enough to set the 30-point-differential running clock rule in motion in the third quarter.
And, for the first time since the final two games of the 2016 season, the Chiefs put together back-to-back victories — something almost all the current seniors had yet to experience at the varsity level — to go with their 18-7 win last week at Chillicothe.
Although Athens finished with 304 passing yards, it was the yardage they didn’t get that allowed the Purple & White (2-4) to take the lead and break a two-season losing streak at the hands of the Bulldogs (2-4).
Logan came through with six — count ‘em, six — takeaways, intercepting four passes and recovering two Athens fumbles. Colten Castle had two of those interceptions, including a 60-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs dropped three passes with wide receivers in open space that assuredly would have resulted in six points and had a trick play that landed them inside the Logan 5-yard line in the final seconds of the first half called back on a penalty.
Logan coach Mike Eddy knew the Bulldogs would throw the ball — 31 of their 50 plays on the night were passes, many of them deep downfield — and also knew his defense couldn’t let Athens receivers get behind them. While it happened on a number of occasions, they only got burned once because the ‘Dogs couldn’t hold onto the ball.
“We had some major coverage issues there at the beginning,” Eddy said. “We had guys who didn’t understand the schematics. Quite honestly, we had a terrible week of practice and I didn’t feel like mentally we were as prepared as we would have liked to have been coming into tonight, and that showed early.
“But I thought the coaching staff did a great job of making those adjustments on the sideline getting those corrections made,” he continued. “We ended up after the first couple drives running a coverage that we don’t even consistently run just because it gave us a better look… and the kids did a great job of being coachable. Them starting to learn what we’re doing and be able to be coachable during the game is going to make us so much more versatile as we move forward. Tonight was an indication of that.”
Athens coach Nathan White was, understandably, kind of at a loss afterward.
“The game of football is so strange,” White said. “It’s just one of those nights where we couldn’t get out of our own way and I don’t have an explanation for it. Guys who have made plays for us for two years are dropping balls.
“We get a wide-open post for a touchdown, we overthrow it. It’s just one of those nights where you feel like nothing’s going right… and I hate saying that, because it feels like you’re making excuses but that’s what it felt like,” he continued. “It felt like we were doing stuff the right way and putting our kids in positions to make plays. Again, the guys that always make plays for us, it just didn’t happen tonight.”
But the Logan offense did what it does so well — control the ball — and until Athens got a couple late touchdowns when the game was more than out of reach, it was the Chiefs rolling up 366 total yards of offense and possessing the ball over 29 minutes that kept the Bulldogs at bay.
Caden McCarty rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns and Braeden Spatar was 7-of-9 passing for 90 yards, throwing for a touchdown and rushing for 89 yards and another score.
Castle caught a TD pass and a 2-point conversion and had his pick-six while varsity newcomers Zach Chapin (a field goal and five extra-point kicks) and Jared Justice (a rushing TD) accounted for 14 points.
“I think what you’re seeing is the growth and maturity of the offense,” Eddy said. “We were able to do a lot of different things tonight and constantly give different looks and in doing so still run just a handful of plays but run them out of a variety of formations and be able to get the kind of looks we want and just be efficient.
“The only times our offense wasn’t efficient was those couple times when we put ourselves behind the sticks (with penalties) and a lot of that didn’t come until a little bit later,” he added. “We didn’t convert every drive, but for the most part we were able to put together multiple first downs, punt the ball (and) change field position and sometimes that’s good offense too when you can play solid defense on the back end. You’re not going to score every time you have the ball.”
But they did so more than half the time, getting points on six of their 11 possessions, and Castle’s interception gave the Chiefs a defensive score.
Ironically, the Chieftains matched their points total for the entire season — they had scored 46 points in their previous five games — and also got points in the third quarter for the first time all year.
A Garrett Mace interception in the end zone on Athens’ first offensive possession kind of set a tone for the night — both for the Athens offense and the Logan defense — and a 51-yard run by Spatar set up 2-yard scoring run by the Logan quarterback late in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs hit on one of those bombs on their first possession of the second period when QB Joey Moore hooked up with a wide-open Braeden Halbert for what turned out to be a 50-yard catch-and-run that pulled the Bulldogs even.
But Athens would not score on its next five possessions.
“We got lucky a few times there early until we got that stuff fixed,” Eddy admitted, “but once it got fixed, then we were able to go out and just play some solid defense. We weren’t able to create as much pressure as we wanted to on the quarterback, but we were able to create enough and make him throw the ball underneath.
“It was the times we didn’t get that pressure and gave them that little bit of extra time to throw the ball down the field early in the game is what kind of cost us,” he added, “but once we were able to get a little bit more pressure and force them to throw the ball quickly, rally up and make tackles and make them drive the field on us, that’s not who they are or what they want to do. They want to hit those 40, 50, 60-yard bombs on you. They don’t want to have to line up on you and run 12 plays to score a touchdown.”
A 50-yard return of the ensuing kickoff by Mace — his second 50-yard KOR of the game — set the Chiefs up on their own 41. After McCarty picked up a first down, a scrambling Spatar found Castle for a 43-yard gain inside the AHS 1-yard line.
McCarty scored easily from there, Chapin kicked the PAT and Logan would not trail again. Then, after a short Athens punt, the Chiefs got close enough for Chapin to kick a 24-yard field goal — he had missed a 39-yarder on Logan’s opening possession — to make it 17-7 with 2:02 left in the half.
“When you have a good kicker that’s an important part of your football team,” Eddy said. “That changes your outlook as a play-caller. We get the ball inside the 25 and now we can say we can walk out of here with an opportunity to get three and we don’t have to force something. That’s kind of what happened there at the end of the half. We didn’t have to force it and make it touchdown or nothing.”
It was Athens that tried to force something a bit later. Castle picked off a Moore aerial, setting the Chiefs up on the AHS 35 with 1:27 remaining in the half.
A Spatar-to-Jonny McClelland pass moved the Chiefs to the Athens 22 and an 11-yard Spatar-to-Mace completion on third down got the Chiefs to the 12.
With 31 seconds left, Spatar throw over the middle and the ball was tipped, but Castle found it in the end zone for a 12-yard scoring pass. Logan then finished off an 18-0 run in a little over eight minutes when Spatar and Castle hooked up again for a 2-point conversion.
McCarty scored on an 8-yard run and Chapin added the PAT kick with 6:27 left in the third quarter then, when Chapin kicked what was supposed to be a squib kickoff, the Chiefs got a fortunate break and recovered the ball on the Athens 45.
Logan then kept the ball for 12 plays, including a key 22-yard keeper by Spatar, and drove for another score when Justice scored his first career varsity TD on a 1-yard run. That made it 39-7 with 31 seconds left in the third period and several minutes afterward would then be played with a running clock.
Nate Trainer turned a short pass from Moore along the left sideline into an 82-yard scoring play with 7:03 left in the game but, after the Chiefs fumbled the ball away — their lone turnover of the night — Castle looked like the intended receiver when he picked Moore off at the Logan 40 and took the ball to the house down the right sideline, dodging a couple potential Athens tacklers the last few yards to reach paydirt.
“I know we got lucky a little bit early, but being able to hold them to seven as long as we did by the time we gave up those two (last scores) it didn’t matter as much,” Eddy said. “I’m just very proud of our offense and coach (Kelly) Wolfe and those players to watch where our offense started at game one at the beginning of this year and where we are right now. It really just shows the growth and their versatility.”
“I can’t get over the mental toughness of our kids and the way they came out and showed it tonight,” he added. “Even with a couple busted big plays they came back and played the next play just as strong as they had before. They didn’t allow those things to creep in and put doubt in their mind. They just kept playing the game. If they’re able to do that and if we’re able to make those kind of corrections, then a couple bad turns here and there aren’t going to have a negative impact on the outcome.
“I thought our coaches did a great job of coaching tonight and the way our kids performed, they came out and played exactly what we asked them to. They played as hard as they could from start to finish, played for each other and you could see that energy and how they supported each other. That’s how you learn how to win.”
Now having won two-straight road games — and, yes, they ran the victory bell at Logan Chieftain Stadium once they arrived back on campus — the Chiefs would like nothing more than to do that with people in the stands when they host a tough Zanesville (5-1) team next Friday to begin a season-ending stretch of three home games in four weeks.
“Hopefully (winning) becomes a habit and just like all these other new routines we’re learning, they just become natural to us,” Eddy said. “Zanesville is a good football team. They’ve beaten some good football teams, and we’re going to be threatened next week.
“But the kids said it best as we broke the huddle,” he added. “They said ‘enjoy it tonight (because) we have to go back to work in the morning.’ That’s a winner’s mentality.”
Kevin Wiseman of The Athens Messenger contributed to this story.
Logan 46, Athens 20
Logan 7 18 14 7 46
Athens 0 7 0 13 20
L: Braeden Spatar 2 run (Zach Chapin kick), 4:45, 1Q
A: Braeden Halbert 50 pass from Joey Moore (Drake George kick), 11:04, 2Q
L: Caden McCarty 1 run (Chapin kick), 8:38, 2Q
L: Chapin 24 FG, 2:02, 2Q
L: Colten Castle 12 pass from Spatar (Castle pass from Spatar), 0:26, 2Q
L: McCarty 8 run (Chapin kick), 6:27, 3Q
L: Jared Justice 1 run (Chapin kick), 0:31, 4Q
A: Nate Trainer 82 pass from Moore (George kick), 7:03, 4Q
L: Castle 60 interception return (Chapin kick), 5:50, 4Q
A: Landon Wheatley 3 run (run failed), 1:49, 4Q
Team Statistics L A
First Downs 16 12
Offensive Plays 61 50
Rushes-Yards 52-276 19-34
Passing Yards 90 304
Total Yards 366 338
Passes 7-9-0 13-31-4
Punts-Avg. 3-32.3 3-21.7
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 10-87 9-70
Possession 29:17 18:43
Rushing — Logan: Caden McCarty 22-139 2 TD, Braeden Spatar 14-89 1 TD, Jonny McClelland 5-31, Traten Poling 3-13, Jared Justice 2-4 1 TD, Ian Frasure 2-3, Colton Ruff 1-2, team 3-(-5). Athens: Landon Wheatley 3-14 1 TD, Ishmael Young 1-9, Peyton Gail 3-7, Nate Trainer 4-4, Joey Moore 7-0, Robby Brice 1-0.
Passing — Logan: Braeden Spatar 7-9-0—90 1 TD. Athens: Joey Moore 12-28-4—268 2 TD, Landon Whatley 1-3-0—36.
Receiving — Logan: Colten Castle 2-55 1 TD, Jonny McClelland 2-18, Garrett Mace 2-10, Ian Frasure 1-7. Athens: Nate Trainer 4-151 1 TD, Brayden Markins 3-30, Corbin Stalder 3-30, Braeden Halbert 1-50 1 TD, Levi Neal 1-36, Peyton Gail 1-7.