LOGAN — History should hopefully look upon the 2018 Logan Chieftains’ football season from a more understanding point of view once their won-loss record is put into proper perspective.
The stark reality is that their 1-9 record goes down tied (with the 2011 Chiefs) for the all-time worst record for a complete season in school history and marks just the sixth time a Logan team won just one game.
Logan football has never went winless in a full regular season (the 1978 squad was 0-1-1 in a season abbreviated by a teacher’s strike) since records began being kept in 1912. The ‘81 Chiefs were 1-8-1 and the 1929, 1930 and 1953 clubs all went 1-8 in nine-game seasons.
However, a huge piece of historical perspective simply has to be built around the schedule, which may very well be, from top to bottom, the most-difficult any Purple & White grid team has ever faced. If not No. 1, it’s got to be in the all-time top three.
Five of Logan’s ten 2018 opponents (Garfield Heights, Waverly, Tri-Valley, Sheridan and Athens) made the playoffs and a sixth (Chillicothe) barely missed.
Logan’s foes have a combined record of 76-24 — for an astonishing winning percentage of .760 — entering the post-season, with four of those losses being among Logan opponents (Teays Valley lost to Chillicothe, Meigs lost to Athens, and Sheridan and Zanesville both lost to Tri-Valley). It’s believed no Logan team has ever played five post-season qualifiers in a single season.
Eight teams (10-0 Garfield Heights, 9-1 Waverly, Athens, Sheridan and Tri-Valley, and 7-3 Teays Valley, Chillicothe and Zanesville) won at least seven games. Watterson (5-5) won its final three outings, upsetting Central Catholic League rival DeSales to end its season last Friday, and Meigs (4-6) won four of its last seven after an 0-3 start, which included Logan’s lone win (45-35) in week three.
You could argue this Logan team would have won two or three games against Southeastern Ohio Athletic League competition if the league still existed.
For one thing, Logan wouldn’t even have played Garfield Heights or Waverly — let alone Watterson, and maybe even Sheridan or Tri-Valley — if the league, which had as many 10 members a decade ago, still existed.
The Chiefs lost to Chillicothe, Athens and Zanesville — all members of the league when it expanded to 10 schools in the late 2000s — and former SEOAL rivals Gallipolis, Jackson, Ironton and Portsmouth also made the playoffs this season.
Logan might have been competitive against Gallipolis, Ironton and Portsmouth and definitely would have been competitive against Marietta (4-6) and Warren (2-8).
With all due respect to their former league brethren, when the SEOAL was alive and well, Logan almost always defeated Warren and/or Marietta, even when the Chiefs fielded an average team. And Gallipolis struggled in most of its latter SEOAL seasons, going 1-9 in 2015 when the Chiefs (8-2) barely missed the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Chieftain Nation, the SEOAL is gone, likely never to return. And while future schedules won’t be much easier, it’s fair to say the Chiefs caught teams like Garfield Heights (best-ever record), Waverly (school-record three-straight playoff appearances), Sheridan (currently enjoying a tremendous run of athletes in nearly all sports) and Tri-Valley (last season’s state Division III runner-up) during upswings in their respective programs.
When the 2011 Chiefs went 1-9, they had a killer opening three weeks in which they played three-straight Division I teams from the Ohio Capital Conference (at Lancaster, home with Pickerington North and at Reynoldsburg), then played a pair of eventual playoff teams in Jackson and Nelsonville-York to conclude the first half of the season 0-5. They just couldn’t recover.
Logan’s opponents that season wound up with a 68-37 record (.648), with Jackson, N-Y and Jonathan Alder all reaching the post-season. The Chiefs lost double-overtime home games to both Warren and Portsmouth that season, with the lone win being a 14-3 week-six decision at Gallipolis.
And, as Logan football historian Spencer Waugh points out, the 1990 Chiefs went 2-8 against a schedule in which their opponents went a combined 70-30 (.700) during the regular season.
New Lexington (9-1), Columbus DeSales (8-2), Ironton (8-2) and Athens (7-3) all made the playoffs, with Athens losing to DeSales in the opening round.
Chillicothe and Jackson went 10-0 and 8-2, respectively, and didn’t make the playoffs... but that was an era in which only the top four teams in a region got to the post-season, as both Chillicothe and Jackson finished fifth in their respective regions. In addition, Marietta went 7-3, Washington Court House and Gallipolis were both 5-5, and Warren 3-7.
Thus, 2018, 2011 and 1990 probably qualify as the toughest seasons in school history or, at the very least, during the playoff era... so it’s more than fair to say the schedule had a lot to do with Logan going 1-9 this fall.
The 2018 Chiefs got solid seasons and excellent senior leadership from players such as Preston Yates, Landon Little, Tyler Cummin, Jeromy Weaver, Aaron Magdich, Jakob Black, Clay Risch, Sam Hall and Josh Horton. Jace Justice would have been a big contributor on both sides of the ball had he not been injured in the very first game.
Those kids refused to let the team cave in even as the losses mounted... a trait that wasn’t lost on the Logan coaching staff or on other teams.
“The head coach at Garfield Heights mentioned that ‘our (GH) kids aren’t stupid. They saw you guys on film, they know you guys are a quality opponent and you play hard,’ ” Logan coach Billy Burke recalled prior to last week’s finale at Waverly.
The Chiefs — who never held a lead over the final seven games of the season — were admittedly out-manned by nearly every team they played, but that didn’t mean they backed down.
After losing 42-7 at Sheridan in week four — probably the Chiefs’ worst performance of the season — Burke made the radical switch from a spread offense to a veer prior to week five against Chillicothe.
Running an option offense primarily meant keeping the ball on the ground, better utilizing junior quarterback Braeden Spatar’s elusive running ability (and forming a solid 1-2 rushing punch with Yates), and controlling the ball to keep it away from opposing offenses.
It also led to some record-setting numbers (please see the accompanying “noteworthy numbers” box) for individual and team rushing attempts.
While it didn’t work to perfection, at least so far as winning games was concerned, it kept the Chiefs competitive the rest of the way and gave them a chance to win, not to mention giving opposing teams’ defenses a look seldom seen in this day and age of pass-happy football.
The Chiefs were 31-of-63 passing the first four games and 25-of-48 over the final six.
And, not coincidentally, the Logan defense began to play much better. The Chiefs allowed 160 points over the first four games and gave up 151 over the last six, which included a 48-0 week-eight loss to Garfield Heights. Take that game away and Logan permitted less than 21 points per game during that season-ending stretch.
“The formula was really to control the ball and let our defense play hard and fast because they’re not on the field a lot,” Burke noted. “If you throw the ball and you incomplete some passes, the clock stops (and) the defense is back on the field, so you make a decision what’s best for us.
“I’ve been happy with the direction we’ve gone offensively and how it’s made the team better,” he added prior to the Waverly game. “We haven’t scored a ton of points, but that’s really not going to happen when your philosophy is to control the clock.”
The Chiefs really should have won the Chillicothe game, which was a scoreless tie heading into overtime, where the Cavs scored on a deflected fourth-down pass in the end zone and added the extra point to take the lead. Logan got the TD back on its OT possession and went for a game-winning 2-point conversion that was stopped just short of the goal line.
Chillicothe would turn around the following three weeks and score 36 points at Hillsboro, 63 at Greenfield McClain and 49 against Miami Trace. The Cavaliers were 7-1 before losing back-to-back Frontier Athletic Conference games to Washington Court House (7-3) and Jackson (7-3) by identical 20-7 scores to get knocked out of the playoffs.
Once the Chiefs made the change on offense, they led their opponents in first downs (86-69), offensive plays (374-280), rushing yards (1,237-708), total yards (1,610-1,597) and average time of possession (28:50 to 19:10) over the final six games... and those figures include the Garfield Heights game, in which the Bulldogs held Logan to just 95 yards of total offense.
Yates ran for 378 yards over his final two games to make a late charge at 1,000 (he had 1,211 last season), winding up with 925 for the season and 2,539 for his career, ranking him seventh on the all-time LHS rushing list (again, please see the “noteworthy numbers” box) and also finished third on the all-time list for career carries.
For a good part of the season, Spatar’s passing yards and rushing yardage were close to equal before he finished with 644 yards in the air and 531 on the ground, accounting for 10 total touchdowns (seven passing, three rushing). He hurt his throwing hand near the end of the week-seven Zanesville game and didn’t play QB against Garfield Heights.
Despite missing the GH game due to injuries he sustained in a traffic accident the day after the Zanesville game, Little led the Chiefs in pass receptions (22) for a second-straight season as well as receiving yards (361) and touchdowns (four) and broke into the all-time top ten for catching passes.
Cummin was a huge contributor, playing nearly every non-lineman position on both sides of the ball and was second in total tackles (72), leading the team with 27 solo tackles. Black had a breakout season, leading the team in total tackles (104) with six tackles for loss and a pair of QB sacks.
Tough junior linebackers Colton and Conner Ruff combined for 117 tackles and six tackles for loss while Weaver, the emotional heart and soul of the team, made 39 tackles despite missing four games with a wrist injury and coming back for the last two despite earlier predictions he would miss the rest of the season. He also caught his first-ever varsity TD pass in the final game at Waverly.
Sophomore Henry Pierce overcame a slow start due to injuries and had a team-best four QB sacks as well as five tackles for loss.
Underclassmen Trevor Horner, Garrett Mace, Israel Bookman, Colten Castle, Nick Anderson, Sam Kisor, Hunter Mowery, Trevor Wyckoff, Caden McCarty (who had a promising start to the season ended by an injury) and Jonny McClelland all made contributions either as starters or off the bench. They’ll all be vital to the team’s plans in 2019.
Tri-Valley (away), Teays Valley (home), Sheridan (home), Chillicothe (away), Athens (away), Zanesville (home) and Meigs (home) will return to the Logan schedule in 2019.
Former SEOAL rival Jackson (away) makes a welcome return in week three, with Meigs moving from week three to week eight in place of Garfield Heights. Maysville (away) and Hamilton Township (home) will replace Watterson and Waverly in weeks nine and 10, respectively.