Editor's note: This is the first part of a five-part feature story on the Logan High School football team, which began three-week summer practices on Monday.
By PAUL ADKINS
LOGAN - The Logan High School football team was not a model of stability last summer.
Former head coach James Toth resigned last June amid the three-week June practice period, bolting for Wahama and leaving the Wildcats without a head coach for quite some time.
Logan Middle School coach Jimmy Sheppard was finally hired, but only days before the Wildcats were scheduled to begin regular practices in August for the 2018 football season.
Rumors flew around last summer following Toth's departure that Logan might not have enough players to field a team.
The issue was even addressed at a public meeting.
Those rumors were wrong, however.
Sheppard took over and went to work.
The Wildcats suffered all season long due to injuries and being dangerously thin on both their offensive and defense lines.
But Sheppard and the Logan football team made the most of it, surprising many by going 4-6 and being competitive in most of its games.
Logan beat a more experienced, and some would say, a more talented Man team in the opener, pulling off a 20-14 mild upset, then went on to win three more games over Nitro (30-26), Scott (30-27) and Herbert Hoover (52-30), led by its "Big Three" of quarterback/defensive back Chucky Felder, running back/linebacker Shawntez Matthews and wide receiver/defensive back Michael Hall.
"Everybody told me when I took it that we would go 0-10," said Sheppard, now in his second year. "I didn't believe that because I knew the kids and knew that we weren't going to be that bad. It was tough because of our numbers. We really only had six linemen on the whole team and that made it really hard for us."
Logan was really only blown out three in losses to Mingo Central (50-8), Wayne (46-8) and Winfield (64-32) and were competitive at least in other losses to Poca, Sissonville and Chapmanville.
Depth, however, became a major issue.
"We really only had one tailback as well in Shawntez Matthews because Troy Cowart had to miss the entire year," Sheppard said. "We were in it in just about every game, all but two or three games but by the end of those games we were just worn down. The Poca game was a wild game, but after awhile our skilled position guys were just so tired."
Turn the page to this year's three-week June practice period and the upcoming 2019 season and the Wildcats seem to be in a much better position. Logan did lose Hall, Matthews and Felder to graduation and a few others including lineman Tyler Mileto but the young Wildcats return several players from last year's squad, bring back several of the injured players and also welcome in a new crop of talented freshman from LMS.
"We want to be balanced on offense and we hope to have more depth," Sheppard said. "At the end of the season last year we only dressed 26 players. During our three week practice period so far we've had over 35 every day. I think that we'll end up with 45 to 50 players. That will give us much more depth, especially with our young players, who are ready to play now. They are all going to help us."
With an expanded roster, Logan hopes to do away with many of its players having to play on both sides of the ball.
"We won't have as many players play both ways so we won't be as tired especially after the first half," Sheppard said. "Last year in the Sissonville game we came out real well but in the second half they ran the opening kickoff back and it was downhill after that. We were just tired after that from our players having to play every down on offense, every down on defense and on special teams as well. We were basically playing with the same 11 players on offense, defense and special teams. It took a toll on us.
"Last year, we were good enough to stay with just about anybody for the first half then after that we were just worn down. This year, we'll have a lot of backups and replacements. There's a lot of kids who want to play."
Logan began three-week practices on Monday and were set to travel to Marshall University on Thursday for a 7-on-7 scrimmage.
This coming Monday, Logan has a 7-on-7 at Chapmanville. Nine teams, including host Chapmanville and Man, are expected to take part. Scott, Poca, Herbert Hoover, Mingo Central, Wyoming East and Richwood are also slated to appear.
Sheppard said the 7-on-7s are good for the quarterbacks and receivers.
"It's really good for the receivers and the quarterbacks," he said. "But defensively, it's not a great thing because everyone who plays plays man and cover two. That's just looks that you aren't going to see and if you want to win in 7 on 7 you basically take your linebackers out and put seven corner backs into the game. It's not realistic but it is good for the receivers running routes and it's good for the quarterbacks. It teaches them to make the right reads."
Logan is scheduled to open the season on August 30 at Man in the Wildcats' only non-conference game.
The Wildcats then have their home opener the following week on September 6 against Sissonville, beginning a stretch of nine straight Cardinal Conference games to close out the season.
Logan also hosts Mingo Central, Winfield, Scott and Chapmanville this season and travels to Poca, Nitro, Wayne and Herbert Hoover.
The road games at Wayne and Hoover close out the season.
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
2019 Logan High School
Aug. 30: at Man, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6: *Sissonville, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13: *Mingo Central, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: *at Poca, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: *Winfield, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4: *at Nitro, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: *Scott, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18: OPEN DATE
Oct. 25: *Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1: *at Wayne, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8: *at Herbert Hoover, 7:30 p.m.
*Cardinal Conference game
2018 Logan High School
Football Schedule (4-6, 3-6):
Aug. 23: Man, W 20-14
Aug. 31: *at Sissonville, L 30-48
Sept. 7: *at Mingo Central, L 8-50
Sept. 14: *Poca (Hall of Fame Game), L 36-62
Sept. 21: *at Winfield, L 32-64
Sept. 28: *Nitro (Homecoming), W 30-26
Oct. 5: *at Scott, W 30-27
Oct. 12: OPEN DATE
Oct. 19: *at Chapmanville, L 8-26
Oct. 26: *Wayne, L 8-46
Nov. 2: *Herbert Hoover, W 52-30
*Cardinal Conference game