It’s back to the gridiron for the Logan High School football team.
The Wildcats took to the field for the first time on Monday to start the three-week June summer practice period.
Logan went 7-4 last season and qualified for the Class AAA playoffs but lost 41-14 on the road at Point Pleasant in the opening round.
It was an eventful off-season for Logan football.
Head coach Gary Mullins, entering his 11th season as the Wildcats’ mentor, had secretly told his players at the beginning of the 2013 season that it would be his last year as the helm.
Toward the end of the season, Mullins made his intentions public in an exclusive interview with The Logan Banner.
But during the off-season, Mullins had a change of heart and decided to stay on as the Wildcats’ coach.
Mullins joked about replacing himself as Logan’s coach.
“That’s pretty easy to do,” he quipped in an earlier interview.
Mullins, a 1997 Logan High School graduate and former quarterback of the Wildcats, has been with the program in some capacity for many years.
He was a former LHS assistant coach under ex-head coach George Barker in the early 2000s. Then, when Barker resigned after the 2003 season and went to coach at his alma mater Chapmanville, Mullins was hired to lead the Cats. At only 24, he was one of the youngest coaches in the state.
The Wildcats have tasted much success under Mullins as Logan has advanced to five out of the school’s six all-time playoff berths under the Logan graduate.
Logan’s fifth playoff appearance under Mullins happened last November in the defeat at the hands of Point Pleasant. Logan has a 50-53 record in 10 years under Mullins, including an 0-4 record in the playoffs, but that is somewhat misleading.
The Wildcats have enjoyed four straight winning seasons, a 28-15 mark and three playoff berths since 2010.
Logan was 3-7, 5-6 and 4-6 and in rebuilding mode from 2004-06 upon Mullins’ arrival.
Mullins said his football players have been back in the weight room since January in preparations for the 2014 season.
“They’ve been in the weight room since January and have been preparing no matter who the coach was going to be,” he said.
Logan’s upcoming 2014 football season schedule has only one change as the Wildcats will play host to Class AAA Brooke, which replaces 2A Mingo Central. The Wildcats play Brooke in Week 6 on Oct. 3 at the Logan Football Stadium.
The season opener is set for Aug. 29 at home against Man. The Wildcats beat the Class A Hillbillies 40-20 on the road last season. Man went on to go 9-1 and host a first-round playoff game, just as Mullins had predicted.
In Week 2, Logan hosts Shady Spring on Sept. 5 before going to Lincoln County on Sept. 12.
In the fourth week, the Cats play at Point Pleasant before hosting 2A county rival Chapmanville on Sept. 26. Logan beat the Tigers 27-14 on the road last season.
After the Brooke game, Logan hosts 3A University on Oct. 10 and then heads to Class AAA Greenbrier East on Oct. 17.
Logan observes a bye week on Oct. 24, then closes out the regular season with two away games — Oct. 31 at 3A Nitro and Nov. 7 at 2A Scott.
Mingo Central had to drop Logan from its schedule because the Miners had to make room for a Cardinal Conference game against Sissonville in order to have a full slate of seven league contests.
“We added Brooke and it’s a one-year contract,” Mullins said. “We always play a tough schedule.”
Logan was hit hard by graduation and have lost 18 seniors, including: Tyler Vernatter, Daniel Hanks, Tyler Workman, Tyler Vance, Stephen Dilly, Worm Street, Clayton Marcum, Brett Musick, Josh Rein, William Browning, Kyle Runyon, Preston Hepler, Jacob Vance, Jody Butcher, Chace Ooten, Ty Yeager, Daniel Miller and Daniel Faine.
The biggest loss for Logan was Street, who was Mr. Do Everything for the Wildcats in his four-year prep career.
Street, who was surprisingly not chosen to play in this weekend’s North-South Football Classic, signed during the off-season with Division II Glenville State.
Street, the younger brother to former Logan standout running back Joe Street, had an outstanding 2013 season as he rushed for 1,444 yards on 167 carries and scored 14 touchdowns. As a receiver, Street had six catches for 177 yards and two more scores. In the defensive secondary, Street had 60 tackles and was also a major player on special teams.
Just as big a loss was Rein, another player Mullins said deserved a shot to play in the North-South game. Last year for the Wildcats, Rein reeled in 38 passes for 603 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Rein also played some quarterback and was 6-for-15 passing for 132 yards with two TDs and one interception. Rein added 220 yards rushing and four touchdowns as well.
Logan also has heavy losses on its offensive and defensive lines due to graduation.
But the good news is that some veteran Wildcats return.
Back at quarterback is rising senior Ryan Miller, was 39-for-81 passing for 751 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions last season.
Logan’s other QB with some experience, rising sophomore Noah Corbett, however, has transferred away to Belfry High School in Kentucky. Corbett was 28-for-51 passing for 377 yards with six touchdowns and three picks last season.
With the graduation of Rein, Street, Marcum and Musick, Logan’s top four receivers are also gone.
Logan’s starting backfield of Street and Vernatter will also have to be replaced. Vernatter ran for 435 yards last season on 77 carries and scored eight touchdowns as Logan’s starting fullback.
“We lost 18 seniors,” Mullins said. “We lost our entire offensive line. We lost Worm, who started 30 games. We lost Clayton, Workman, Vernatter and they all started 30. We’ve got a lot of guys who we have to replace but we’re looking forward to the season and getting out there to see what these young guys can bring to the table. We want to put the best product that we can out there.”
On defense, leading tackler and middle linebacker Jacob “Hammer” Browning is back. He had 82 stops last year.
Jeremiah Spears, a starting tight end and linebacker, also returns. Chester Bradsher (WR/DB) will also be counted on to produce.
“We won’t have many seniors,” Mullins said. “But I think Zac Acord from the basketball team is going to come out for football and Brenton Vance as well. Those are two seniors there.”
Marcum (61 tackles), Dilly (59 tackles), Vernatter (57 tackles), Workman (60 tackles and five interceptions) and Hepler (44 tackles) were also key losses on defense.
Logan must also find a new kicker as Hanks has graduated. He was 34-for-45 in PATs last season and also added a 26-yard field goal. Hanks also handled some of the punting duties.
The Wildcats could be in rebuilding mode this fall so the June practice period will be important for Logan’s players to blend together.
“We try to put our entire offense and defense in to make sure they know everything about our schemes,” Mullins said when asked about the three-week summer practice period. “We’re trying to get them to learn our system. So when we start out in August we can go right in and go on from there.”
Logan is set to scrimmage in two 7-on-7s this June — both at Scott. The first one is this Thursday at 6 p.m. The second one is Thursday, June 26 at 6 p.m., also in Madison against the Skyhawks.
“We don’t put a whole lot into winning 7-on-7s. A lot of teams play a lot of them but we want to practice more,” Mullins said. “Four years ago we felt like we weren’t getting as much out of them so we decided to practice more and do less 7-on-7s. I think that it’s been a good reflection in our record in how successful that we’ve been.”
The first day of regular practices is Aug. 4 for Logan and all other area teams.
The Wildcats have two preseason scrimmages — Aug. 16 at home against Tug Valley and Paintsville (Ky.) and Aug. 22 at Wayne.
2014 Logan High School
Aug. 29: Man, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5: Shady Spring, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: at Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19: at Point Pleasant, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26: Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3: Brooke, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10: University, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17: at Greenbrier East, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24: OPEN DATE
Oct. 31: at Nitro, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7: at Scott, 7:30 p.m.
2013 Logan High School
Football Results (7-4):
Aug. 30: at Man, W 40-20
Sept. 6: at Shady Spring, W 39-0
Sept. 13: Lincoln County (Hall of Fame Game), W 51-14
Sept. 20: Point Pleasant, L 21-37
Sept. 27: at Chapmanville, W 27-14
Oct. 4: OPEN DATE
Oct. 11: at University, L 20-49
Oct. 18: Greenbrier East (Homecoming), W 48-29
Oct. 25: at Mingo Central, L 20-26
Nov. 1: Nitro, W 40-14
Nov. 8: Scott (Senior Night), W 42-13
Nov. 15: at Point Pleasant (3A playoffs), L 14-41