The season has not been going well so far for the Logan varsity football team.
The Chieftains have been blown out in their first three games by tough teams from Jackson, Teays Valley and Sheridan. They’re coping with injuries to a number of key players as they try to work the kinks out of a new offensive approach. And the loss of other players due to a COVID quarantine led to last Friday’s scheduled game, against Warren, being cancelled.
Still, Head Coach Mike Eddy still sees some rays of light in the darkness, and is hoping for good things to come out of next Friday’s contest at Chillicothe.
“I think if the last three years have shown us anything about our kids it’s that they tend to be very resilient,” Eddy said. “I know that late in the week when the decision was made that we weren’t going to be able to play, several of the guys were very disappointed and upset, because they’re hungry to compete – they want to go play. They’re that kind of kids. So from that standpoint I’m just very proud of them. And I think we all understand that the first three games were three of the best teams on our schedule to say the least, and we went into each one of those games short-handed for one reason or another. And even though they were lopsided losses, I really felt like our kids played hard and competed from start to finish.”
The injuries obviously haven’t made things any easier. In week one, Eddy said, the Chieftains lost their starting right tackle Keiton Arledge, a 6-4, 330-pound player “that we were really looking at to be the anchor of our offensive line.” Arledge will be out for at least two more weeks, with a broken bone in his foot.
Another big loss was Carson Hodson, injured on the fourth play of the team’s last scrimmage. “He did so much for us,” Eddy noted. “He was starting guard, starting weak end, long snapper, kickoff guy – there just wasn’t anything that he didn’t do for us. He did get released on Friday, so it’s nice to have him back in practice this week.”
The Chiefs also lost Easton Castle, a wide receiver/defensive back, to a reactivation of an injury that he had sustained over summer. “I mean, the list just kind of goes on and on and on of the guys we’ve been without,” Eddy noted. “And as I’ve said, this is the toughest stretch of our schedule. Which is all the more reason that we’ve been so proud of the effort that our kids have played with.”
And now COVID is baring its fangs again, causing the first cancellation for Logan this season. Eddy said it’s impossible to predict whether there will be more, “but at the same time, you see the trend around not just in our state but in our country right now, and unfortunately it seems like those things may be inevitable at some point… there are several high school games getting cancelled every week around the state, and unfortunately that occurred to us last week. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anybody disputes that the most important thing we’ve got to do is to keep our kids safe.”
COVID made an impact last year as well, though without causing any cancelled games on Logan’s part. “Last year was a completely different situation from the standpoint that there were so many regulations and protocols in place,” Eddy recalled. “We were able to get through all 10 games, didn’t have a cancellation on our part… A lot of teams chose to just play in their conference, play shortened seasons. And the athletic director at the time, Mrs. Schulthheiss, did a great job of being able to put a schedule together on short notice. But we weren’t able to use our locker room, kids had to wear masks any time they weren’t on the field, everybody had to stand six feet apart, nobody shared water containers – all of these protocols. And looking back, those are probably things that we on our end still want to keep in place to some degree, just to minimize the risk of transmission.”
Bright spots in the picture include the performance of standout players, as well as what Eddy calls the maturing and progress of the whole team as a team.
“Obviously Traten Poling’s doing a great job for us on both sides of the ball, and so is Brayden Sturgell. This is his first year as a starting quarterback, second year as our starting safety, and he just continues to impress each week with his toughness and knowledge of the game,” Eddy said. “And we have some younger guys that we really were not sure about that really have done a nice job. Varrick Fick is one of those kids who we’ve kind of thrown into the fire, and he’s responded very well.”
Even more important, he suggested, is the overall development of the team. “I think that’s the part that really does go unnoticed,” he said. “When we started this journey three years ago, there were a lot of things that I personally wanted to see done a little bit differently, as far as the expectations for our players. And even though it’s not showing up on the scoreboard, I see consistent growth out of our players. I think our coaching staff has done a great job of keeping these guys involved and coaching them up each week. And you can see growth. If you’re in our locker room you see a much better team atmosphere, you see a lot more of an emphasis placed on teammate versus self; the overall discipline of the group; and their work ethic, and buying into expectations. All of those things are benefits. It’s just extremely unfortunate that those improvements, those advancements – as I said, they’re just not showing up on the scoreboard.”
To make things even more challenging, the Chiefs are working on a major makeover of their offense. “We have transitioned from a spread offense, requiring four wide receivers, a shotgun approach, the quarterback throwing the ball all around the field, to a much more traditional offense in the wing T,” Eddy explained. “We now have one wide receiver, but we have three running backs. Now the offense really is about misdirection, gap blocking, and it tends to fit our personnel a lot better from the standpoint of, it doesn’t necessarily require as much speed, athleticism and size. It caters more to the type of player that we have available to us right now.”
The logic of the wing T, he said, is to “more about controlling field position, running time off the clock. The old analogy, ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ – this is that kind of offense. You just try to control the game, keep points to a minimum, keep your opponent off the field.”
The team transitioned to the new approach over the summer, Eddy said, and “it’s a little bit of a learning curve for our kids, just because we’re asking them to do something that they haven’t been doing for the last three years. But I think we’re finally getting to the point now where we can start tweaking the offense a little bit, and actually do some wrinkles, because the players are finally getting that kind of understanding of what it is we’re trying to do.”
Obviously Eddy is hoping for the team’s first win Friday, but said whether or not that happens, he wants to see the improvement continue.
“We would at least like to see more consistency,” he said. “We’ve been beaten 124-13 through three games – I mean, that is a miserable number. I would be foolish to say anything other than that, and that’s very disappointing. So we need to be able to put some points on the board, and we need to be able to play more consistent defense. We have just not played well enough to make these games competitive. So regardless of outcome, I think if we can do those things we can at least see some progress.”