Editor’s note: The following article is the fourth of a series of Logan High School football history stories LHS sports historian Spencer Waugh is writing for The Logan Daily News this season to commemorate the anniversaries of the greatest Chieftain football teams of all time. Waugh is continuing the process of speaking with LHS athletes and coaches from all eras and can be contacted either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-974-4531.
The 1994 Logan Chieftains featured a dynamic offense full of speed and power and a defense capable of making the big play seem routine.
Their path to a 7-3 season, including a perfect 6-0 mark against league competition, wasn’t easy. And while they fell just short of a playoff spot (back when only four teams per region qualified), they would have qualified under today’s format.
It’s the silver (25th) anniversary for the 1994 Southeastern Ohio Athletic League champion Chieftains.
“We knew they were special,” head coach Dale Amyx recalled. “It was a fun group.”
“There was no ‘I’ in that team,” quarterback Chad Zimmerman remembers. “No egos. We bought into the game plan each week, whatever Amyx and Robinson put together. That whole coaching staff got the most out of us.”
Amyx — the winningest coach in LHS history with 140 victories (83 more than second place Mel Adams) — was in his fifth season. And while his teams had shared league titles in 1991 and ’92, he and his team were looking for their first outright crown.
Amyx had been on staff throughout the 1980s and was defensive coordinator during the dominant era of his predecessor, Clarence Perry.
“You know Dale was just a genius at coming up with a defense that was aggressive and had a good game plan,” assistant coach Rob Ramage recollected.
“We were a senior-heavy team,” said defensive specialist Chris Hall. “Our sophomore year we had won the league. And we felt our junior year was a letdown. We vowed not to let that happen. We worked really hard in the summer. We wanted to go undefeated and make a statement.”
The team is best remembered for a trio of outstanding offensive talents who still litter the LHS record books today.
Zimmerman completed 76 of 120 passes for 1,355 yards, including 14 touchdowns and only a pair of interceptions. He left holding school season records for passing yards, passing completion percentage, and pass efficiency rating. His four TD passes against River Valley tied the school mark as well. All of those still rank in the school’s all-time top ten lists.
“He was the cog that ran the machine,” Amyx said of his quarterback. “He was the quarterback on both sides of the ball (he also played safety). You knew he wasn’t going to turn the ball over, you trusted him.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Robinson also had fond memories of the undersized signal-caller.
“We did a rolling pocket with Zim,” he remembered. “And some years the quarterback had the option of changing routes on the field and some years I called them all from the sidelines. Chad was one of the ones we trusted to make the calls. He had great game presence.”
But no quarterback can succeed without talented receivers to throw to, and Eric Cox was more than up for the task.
The senior had led the team in receptions the two prior seasons, but amazingly hadn’t caught a touchdown. In ’94 Cox caught 38 passes for 791 yards and nine scores.
“Cox was fast and had amazing hands,” Zimmerman said of his top receiving target. “We only threw it 12 times a game, and since I was able to call routes I was gonna make them count. It was all big plays and Eric made that easy. All I had to do was throw it and he was gone.”
Cox graduated with career records for receptions and yardage. His senior season was topped only by LHS Hall of Famer D.J. Conrad in those departments.
But maybe the best athlete of all was tailback John Cosgrove.
The senior speedster ran 159 times for a school-record 1,524 yards and 24 touchdowns for 9.58 yards per carry, which is still tops in Chieftain history. His season yardage total broke the record held by current LHS assistant and rushing king Kelly Wolfe.
“He was one of the fastest kids I ever coached,” said Amyx. “Jim (Robinson) would call an outside run or a screen pass and the defense would be in position, but he’d just run around them”
Added Zimmerman, “Just give him one step. He was so blessed, man. He worked hard, but he didn’t even have to at that level.”
Adding to those seniors were sophomores Jeff Maibach and Quinton Evans at tight end and fullback, respectively.
While the skill positions were loaded, the ’93 team had graduated an outstanding group of linemen. Brooks Burris was now at Ohio State; also gone were center Dustin Conrad and guard Ryan Carpenter.
Guard Tim Woodgeard and tackle Dustin Grove were the lone returning starters. Cary Colliton won the snapping job out of camp while Keith Wilson, playing his first season of varsity football, won the second guard spot. Ryan Smith played tackle opposite Grove.
But the inexperience would be compounded early in the season when Grove and Colliton suffered season-ending injuries. Chuck Ricketts and Mike Visintainer stepped in at center and tackle, respectively.
“It was quite the group. They didn’t have the experience like some of the past teams and they weren’t the most naturally-gifted group I’ve had,” Robinson said of that offensive line. “But they were really smart kids. And you had to be smart to play on our line. You had to know how to make the right calls and to trust each other. They developed as the season went on — which was a key to our success. Those guys really opened up holes. I’ll never forget that group.”
Defensively, the Chiefs’ 50-monster defense had also improved as the season went along.
“Chris Hall was the emotional leader,” said Zimmerman. “He was the guy. He was huge.”
Hall was the monster back, a hybrid safety/linebacker position. Zimmerman was the free safety while Cosgrove and Maibach played the corner spots.
Up front, seniors Rudy Brandt and Tim Bookman were talented ends while Woodgeard, and sophomores Casey Myers and Brad Congrove were excellent defensive tackles. Junior Bobby Myers moved from cornerback to noseguard, carrying on a tradition of scrappy undersized noseguards in Logan’s 50-front.
“Moving Bobby to noseguard was a game changer for our defense,” Zimmerman stated.
Junior Mike Burba and senior Chad Ricketts were the linebackers.
“Ricketts was a warrior,” Hall recalled.
The season opened with a 49-18 domination of New Lexington. Cosgrove was a one-man wrecking crew, gaining 255 yards on just 12 carries for a record 21.25 yards-per-carry average. The senior scored six touchdowns, also setting a new school mark.
Burba remembers the moments before that season opener on the old Hilltop field.
“I can remember the butterflies, especially as we came down the steps and then through the “Tunnel ‘L.’ I had busted my tail to earn that starting linebacker spot. I recovered a fumble in, in like the first defensive series, and was like ‘game on’ — and the butterflies were gone.”
But the joy — and ease — of the victory evaporated quickly.
“All we talked about that summer was Nelsonville. That was the game,” Zimmerman remembers. “We’d beat them the year before, but we knew with the Gail brothers they’d be tough.”
Logan scored first to take a 3-0 lead on a 19-yard field goal by Josh Carpenter. But Justin Gail answered for the Buckeyes before half, scoring on a four-yard run and a 71-yard punt return within three minutes to take a 13-3 lead into the locker room.
“Q (Quinton Evans) had a big run right at the end of the first half. We knew we could build on that,” Hall said of the Chieftains halftime situation.
A 25-yard Carpenter field goal brought the purple and white within 13-6, but Gail answered again with a 51-yard scoring run on a sweep play that seemed to put the game out of reach.
“I knew that sweep was coming, and I told our defense,” said Amyx. “We slanted toward it, but that guy was just so good he got outside our contain. They had a helluva football team.”
Logan got off the mat in the fourth quarter. Cosgrove returned an interception 53 yards and Carpenter’s PAT brought Logan to within seven with 11:09 to play in the game.
Gail intercepted Zimmerman late in the quarter, but a quick three-and-out gave Logan the ball on the N-Y 45 yard line with only 44 seconds remaining
It took Logan one play — a sideline pass and run from Zimmerman to Cox — to cover those 45 yards. But a controversial unsportsmanlike conduct penalty made the PAT all but routine, and when it landed wide right the Chieftains were left heartbroken, having lost 20-19.
“It was a brutal letdown for our team,” Hall surmised.
“It was the most physical game I ever played in,” added Burba.
“That was probably our chance to get in (the playoffs),” recounted Amyx.
The Buckeyes would advance to a regional final with an 11-0 record before falling to Wheelersburg.
While the team refocused, determined not to let one loss turn into two, homestanding Zanesville had other ideas. Logan outgained the Blue Devils on the night and led 10-6 as the fourth quarter started.
ZHS threw a fade to the corner of the end zone, but Cosgrove broke up the pass on third down. Instead of trying a field goal, Zanesville came back with the same play and this time completed it for the game-winning score, 13-10.
A trip to Chillicothe was next. The Cavaliers had steamrolled Logan in ’93, rolling up 60 points in a 60-28 victory at Bill Sauer Field. Chillicothe won again, this time 40-21.
“That was a year I thought we could get them (Chillicothe),” Amyx said.
“I remember that was the game our defense came unraveled. We were so flat,” remembers Hall. “That was not a good feeling. Lots of infighting and loafing. I was thinking that not only were we not gonna be league champs, but that we might have a losing season.”
“Amyx held us back after film session,” Hall continued. “He challenged the seniors. He said that leadership had to come from the team, and I took that personally. A lot of us grew up. We had to become men that day and that week. I embraced a role I hadn’t been comfortable with before as a more vocal leader.”
“The big thing for me — coming into league play with three losses — was I knew we had a good team,” Amyx stated. “We had played tough games, tough teams. I just wanted to keep their confidence up, and hoped they still believe in us (coaches). I knew once we got into league we could do real well.”
The first league game was at home with Warren. The Warriors were 3-1 and took an early 6-0 lead.
“We had played some really good teams,” Robinson remembered. “But I think our players could sense that the league teams were nothing like what we had faced (non-league). And they knew for sure after a series or two.”
Still, it wasn’t easy against the Warriors.
“They took it to us right off the bat. They were running the ball at will,” Burba explained. “I remember Amyx called timeout and did what he did best — let’s just call it a motivational speech, put a spark in us — I remember getting a sack that sort of started to turn the tide.”
If the defensive stop didn’t turn the tide, Logan’s first touchdown did. Zimmerman took the snap with his heels on his own goal line and called an out-and-up route for Cox.
“It was the best pass I threw all season,” Zimmerman recalled of his school-record toss. “It was a 97-yard touchdown. Once Cox was behind his man it was all over. That play turned it all around, made everything click.”
Logan won 38-14.
The purple and white amassed 524 yards of total offense while cruising past hapless Marietta 57-21. Zimmerman connected with sophomores Maibach and Evans for touchdown throws of 62 and 77 yards, respectively.
But the real meat of the schedule was next, a trip to Gallipolis to face the 6-0 Blue Devils.
“Brent Saunders was a helluva good coach. A lot of mutual respect,” Robinson stated.
“The coaches had a great game plan (to combat Gallipolis’ size advantage up front),” Hall remembers. “We went away from the 50-monster to a 4-4 for this game. Coach came and asked for buy-in, but he’d already made the decision. We called it a 4-4 shinbone and the idea was for the defensive line to dive at their ankles and create a pile for our quicker linebackers to clean up.”
It worked. Logan held Gallipolis to 186 yards and held off a furious Blue Devil rally to win 14-13. Cosgrove’s late interception sealed the victory.
“I remember the third down and ten play on their 20,” Amyx noted. “We ran a counter pass and Zim just zig-zagged and, boom!, scored the opening touchdown.”
With the Blue Devils dispatched, next came the undefeated Jackson Ironmen to Bill Sauer Field.
It was another battle, with Jackson leading as the half wound down. Cosgrove scored his second TD of the half with just 46-seconds to go and tacked on two more scores in the second half as Logan pulled away for a 27-13 victory.
Burba, Hall and Zimmerman all remembered that Chad Ricketts broke his ankle in the second quarter of that game.
“He finished the half, with a bunch of tackles, but he couldn’t play on it because it swelled up in the locker room. He was done for the year,” Hall remarked.
A first-ever trip to River Valley was one of the more dominating performances in school history, with Logan winning 61-6. It also clinched a share of the league title.
Cox’s receiving line — four catches, 236 yards, and four touchdowns — tells the tale. The Raiders were overmatched and had no answer for Logan’s balanced offense.
“I just remember it was freezing,” said Burba. “I mean there might have been snow flurries. We (the starters) didn’t play much if at all in the second half and I remember spending the whole second half, this is before a running clock, trying to stay warm.”
Week 10 brought the Athens Bulldogs to town. While the ‘Dogs were 0-9, it still was a chance to clinch the outright title and also play at least one more game together for the senior class.
“I remember at halftime Amyx kind of pulled a couple of us aside,” Hall explained. “He told this would be the last time we were gonna play on that field — maybe the last time we’d all play together — (and) that we needed to sell out and play better. He didn’t want us to have any doubts or regrets. I still remember that moment. The coaches didn’t speak at halftime. They left it up to us seniors.”
Logan downed the Bulldogs 54-13, with Cosgrove bookending his senior season by setting the school record with six touchdowns in a single game.
The team just missed the playoffs.
“It was a great season. We were champions. That’s why you do the work, that sacrifice, those two-a-days, the team dinners, all of it,” Hall summarized.
“What I remember is something Coach Amyx said,” Burba concluded. “At some point in the season he said ‘you won’t always remember the games, but you’ll remember the practices. Now I know what he meant. I really do. And that always stuck with me.”
“We just wanted to win,” Zimmerman added. “I mean, one more game... it still bothers me today not getting that (playoff) chance.”