There’s not many cream puffs on Logan High School’s football schedule.
Ahead are games against Triple-A teams Point Pleasant, University, Brooke and Greenbrier East. Rival games against Chapmanville and Scott are also on the slate.
After last week’s 32-26 overtime loss at home to Class A county rival Man, there’s no room for error.
That’s why the Wildcats need to take care of business this week and get into the win column.
A struggling Shady Spring team is on the schedule as the Tigers come to town for Friday night’s clash with the Wildcats in the annual Logan High School Hall of Fame Game.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Logan Stadium.
Shady Spring’s football program was once strong but has been down over the last several years. The Tigers were 1-9 last year, including a 39-0 loss to Logan.
Shady has hopes of turning things around this fall but some of that positivity might have been lost following last week’s season-opening 55-7 thumping at home by another group of Tigers, this one from Princeton.
Logan coach Gary Mullins said the Wildcats must bounce back this week.
“We can’t go 0-2,” he said. “If that happens, that would put you behind the 8-ball for sure.”
Shady Spring’s five turnovers last week against Princeton set the tone of the game. All five led to touchdowns.
Princeton racked up 400 yards on the ground with 301 yards coming from running back Jordan Jones (154) and quarterback Jay Palmer (147).
Shady Spring (0-1) had 244 yards of total offense — 221 on the ground.
“I thought we came out playing decent ball,” Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “We just couldn’t match their speed. We knew they were going to get some big plays, but we felt we could control ball. We did that in the first series and we took it all the way down inside the five, but fumbled. We just can’t get over that hump. We told the boys it’s like we can’t shake last year off and start believing.”
John Hardy paced Shady Spring’s ground attack with 58 yards.
“There’s nine more weeks,” Culicerto said. “We’ll fix the problems or at least give it a shot. They’ve still got to get better at open-field tackling. Everybody has to stay up.”
Shady Spring was once a Double-A mainstay but has struggled in recent years since moving up to the Triple-A ranks. The Tigers’ lone win last season was over 2A Independence.
“We lost a couple of close ones we felt we could have got,” Culicerto said. “It would have helped a bunch, but we couldn’t put the ball into the end zone. The boys worked hard and kept focused. They kept showing up every day to get better, and we did get better. It started off rough, but we saw improvement. Hopefully the ones who are back will continue it this year.”
The good news for Shady Spring is that its entire big and beefy offensive and defensive lines return almost intact from last year. That’s a contrast to Logan, which graduated several linemen and are rebuilding its O-line from scratch.
Top Shady linemen are center Jacob Cruise (6-foot-1, 255 pounds), guards Corey Handy (6-1, 250) and Chase Lusk (5-10, 230) and also Garrett Cantley and Jorgen Allen (6-3, 285).
Another key Shady player is quarterback/free safety Nathan Sink (6-1, 185), a transfer from Princeton and Lively (6-0, 175), who has taken the majority of the reps at QB. Lively also handles all of the punting and kicking chores.
Speedy running back Keith Sexton is another Tiger to watch, along with junior lineman Liam Cornwell, who moved in from Charlotte, N.C.
Shady has been particularly good over the years with its passing game but Coach Culicerto may also utilize its experience line with a more balanced running attack.
Hardy (6-1, 200) is Shady’s leader in the backfield. He’s returning from an injury last season.
Coach Mullins said Shady Spring will most likely look to establish a ground game against the Cats.
“They like to run the football,” Mullins said. “They also like to run a quarterback keeper play which is a lot like Wayne used to like to do back in the day. They have a split back formation 90 percent of the time. We’re going to have to be on our A-game if we want to stop them. They may try to run and that may even be more elevated against us because we struggled to stop the run against Man. They want to run the ball even more than they normally would.”
Logan nearly rallied back to beat Man last week, coming back from a 26-14 fourth-quarter deficit. Matt Cox gave Logan a spark with an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. QB Ryan Miller then ran in for a touchdown on a fourth down play to tie it 26-26. The Wildcats’ Jacob Browning, however, missed the PAT with 33 ticks showing on the clock and the game went to OT.
Man then won it on its first OT possession after Logan turned it over on downs.
Miller led LHS last week as he was 10-for-18 passing for 146 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. Miller also ran with the ball 14 times for 63 yards with the TD score.
“He played pretty well,” Mullins said of Miller. “He threw a couple of interceptions. Other than that he played a pretty good game. I’m sure he’ll get better and better and he’ll get more comfortable with our wide receivers as we go each week.”
Miller also showed some running ability. In Logan’s four-wide spread offense, that’s a must. If the receivers are covered he’s going to have to tuck and run.
“He’s not done that much in his career as far as running with ball,” Mullins said. “He’s added that to his game this year and he’s moving around better in the pocket. We wished that he would have ran with the ball a few more times. He’s definitely a threat with his legs. Our offense falls a lot on his shoulders. Just about everything that we do goes through him. We expect to get big games from him every night.”
Devonta Coleman gave the Cats a spark off the bench with six carries for 33 yards.
Zac Acord, playing his first varsity game, reeled in five passes for 65 yards and a scored a TD on a hook-and-lateral play. Cox had four catches for 47 yards and two TDs. Brenton Vance added a grab for 20 yards. Cameron Sammons had two catches for 14 yards.
Cox added 36 yards on the ground and tacked on the return touchdown.
“Cox had a tremendous game last week,” Mullins said. “That’s what we have got to have. We have got to have guys like him clicking on all cylinders because he’s a return guy, too. I thought our young guys and new guys played pretty well for much for the game but we have some seniors that have to play better. They have to be the best players on the field for us. We’re looking for some of them to step up this week.”
Chance Connn and Tyler Browning led the Logan defense with nine tackles each. Nick Christian had eight stops and Jamal Minter seven. Cox had three pass breakups.
Mullins said Logan must be able to be better on offense this week.
“We have to be more efficient,” he said. “We looked great at times and other times not very good at all. We have to be more consistent.”
On defense, Mullins said Logan must be able to force some turnovers. Last week, Man fumbled the ball some but lost none.
“Defensively, we have to be able to get a turnover,” he said. “We caused some fumbles last week but they got every one of them back. Right now, we’re minus-three in turnovers. Had we not turned the ball over on Friday night we might have been able to win the game.”
Mullins said Logan is relatively injury-free going into Friday night’s clash.
“We’re banged up a little bit but it’s nothing major,” he said. “Everybody is ready to play as far as I know.”
Logan is 3-0 against Shady the last three years. The Cats have outscored the Tigers 97-7.
* Logan’s JV football team won its season opener on Labor Day at home over Man, 22-12.
Daniel Browning scored two touchdowns for the Cats on kickoff returns covering 65 and 60 yards.
Brian Farley added a 2-yard TD run and also scored on a two-point conversion.
Devin Hensley also scored for Logan on a two-point conversion.
Chace Watkins had two interceptions for the Wildcats while Jimmy Early had one.
Logan vs. Shady Spring
Football Series Last 10 years
(Logan leads 3-0)
2013: Logan 39, Shady Spring 0
2012: Logan 33, Shady Spring 7
2011: Logan 25, Shady Spring 0