LOGAN — It wasn’t a conventional season for the Logan High School football team in 2020, or for any team in the state for that matter.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and color-coded maps, the Wildcats were only able to play six games this fall and closed out with a 2-4 record.
There were some positive signs, however, for Coach Jimmy Sheppard and the Wildcats, particularly on the defensive end of the ball.
Logan gave up 149 points this season in those six games or an average of 24.8 points per contest — a much better showing than from the year before.
“That stat is a little misleading because our defense really did not give up that much,” Sheppard said. “We gave up a punt return for a touchdown against Tug Valley and also three pick sixes against Man.”
The Wildcats couldn’t seem to stop anybody at all in 2019.
Last season, in which Logan endured a 1-9 campaign, suffering through numerous injuries and being dangerously thin in several positions, the Wildcats surrendered 50.2 points per game.
Six times Logan gave up more than 50 points a game. Logan gave up 62 points to Man, 68 to Poca, 70 to Winfield and 61 to Wayne.
This year was quite different.
The most allowed was 44 points to Man in a 44-6 loss to the Hillbillies on Oct. 28.
Logan switched to a 3-3-5 defensive scheme this season to better utilize its athletic secondary.
“Chris Flannigan is our Defensive Coordinator,” Coach Sheppard said. “He worked on the defense last year and I liked what he did with it so I gave the defense to him. He went to some clinics and brought some things back with him that really made us better. We ran the 3-3-5 last year and installed it against Mingo Central. At times we did a pretty good job against their explosive offense. So we used it as a package more last year against teams in the spread. Chris learned more about it and we made it our base defense this year. We don’t always have a lot of big, strong linemen but what we do every year is have 20 defensive backs. We thought it would be better for us to have the best 11 on the field instead of having weaker guys in some of the positions.”
After an 0-4 start, Logan won its last two games and allowed just 20 total points in wins over Nitro (22-14) on Oct. 30 and James Monroe (32-6) on Nov. 6.
Logan gave up just 22 points to Tug Valley in a 22-12 loss at Naugatuck. The Panthers closed out the season at 3-0 and was ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A before seeing its season shut down in the playoffs after Tug Valley was unable to compete due to Mingo County being orange on the virus threat map.
Justin Collins led Logan this season with 59 total tackles and two fumbles.
Brice Davis had 52 tackles and two sacks, while Kolton Goldie had 51 stops.
“Davis was a big surprise to us,” Sheppard said. “He didn’t play last year and is just a sophomore this year. He went from the third guy in his position to the first. He had 52 tackles in six games and that is pretty good. Having Goldie back was great too. He’s a hybrid type of player and also played in the secondary.”
Caden Dotson had 49 tackles, a whopping 12 sacks and six forced fumbles.
“He played the Mike linebacker for us last year,” Sheppard said of Dotson. “This year, we moved him to defensive end. He had 12 sacks. Not sure how close that is to leading the state but that’s got to be up there. That’s only in six games. That’s amazing and he’s only a sophomore.”
Aiden Slack, a safety, finished with 29 tackles, a blocked kick, a fumble recovery and a sack.
Noah McNeely checked in with 27 tackles, three fumble recoveries, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
“McNeely and our defensive line did a fantastic job this year,” Sheppard said. “We didn’t give up many runs of more than 15 yards all season and both of them were in the Man game.”
Makiah Adams had 22 tackles, a team-high four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He did not play in the 2019 season after breaking a collar bone during the three-week June period.
Chance Maynard had 18 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Carson Kirk had 15 tackles, while Braydon Chambers and Shelton Stone had 13 tackles each and Hunter White and Cameron Hensley had 11 stops apiece. Hensley also had a pair of fumble recoveries.
“Our secondary was pretty good and I thought it was good last year but we were not good up front and in the linebackers,” Sheppard said. “This year, we moved two linebackers up to the line in McNeely and Dotson who played defensive end. We also had Hunter White back at nose guard.”
Logan only has four senior starters on the entire roster so nearly the whole team will be coming back. Two key losses, however, are Collins and starting wide receiver Corey Townsend, who also played in the secondary late in the season.
“We get every starter back on defense except for Collins,” Sheppard said. “He did not play the year before. He came in at 145 pounds at Mike linebacker and led us in tackles.”