It’s been an enjoyable summer for the Logan High School football team.
The Wildcats finished a productive June during their three-week summer practice period and were able to play in a couple of 7-on-7s and break in some new players.
After taking July off, Logan hit the field last week for the beginning of regular practices in preparation for the Aug. 30 season opener at Man.
Logan coach Gary Mullins and his staff normally double as groundskeepers during the summer but there was not that much to do.
Unlike the last two summers which were very hot and dry this summer brought ample rain and cooler temperatures across the Logan area.
That has made the grass at Logan Stadium look the best that it’s been in years. When the Wildcats hit the field last Monday for practice, thick, green grass covered the playing surface. There wasn’t a single patch of brown or dirt.
“I haven’t had to water the field all summer. Not one time,” Mullins said.
As the Logan Stadium grass is ready to go for another season of high school football on Midelburg Island, also ready are the Wildcats.
Logan, which enjoyed a 7-3 season last year and was only one spot out of making it to the Class AAA playoffs for a third straight season, has won 21 games over the last three years.
With a blend of returning starters and a good crop of talented newcomers, Logan hopes the success continues this fall.
Mullins, now entering his 10th year as head coach of the Wildcats, said his team must get deeper as the new grid campaign nears.
“We’re right at 50 or 51 players and practices have been really good,” Mullins said. “They’ve got good attitudes. Our first group is really strong. They have played a lot and have got a lot of time in and have had a lot of starts. But our backups are very inexperienced. That’s one thing that we’re concentrating on. We’re trying to find guys. Our starting lineup is not set but we have a lot of returning starters. Our biggest thing is that we have to find guys to fill in behind them and can give us quality play there.”
Mullins said his freshmen and players with limited varsity experience must be able to grow up real fast if the Wildcats are able to match last year’s success.
“This is the only year that I’ve been the coach that there’s not that many tweener players,” he said. “We have a lot that are on the verge of playing but are not there yet. We have a lot of starters and we have a lot of guys who have never played. That’s a tough combination, so we have to get a lot of the players ready really fast.”
Logan’s veteran players are top-notch, however.
Two-way players Brynden “Worm” Street and Tyler Vernatter are back, along with wide receivers Josh Rein and Brett Musick. Defensive specialists Tyler Workman and Clayton Marcum also return along with experienced linemen such as Ty Yeager, Preston Hepler and Jody Butcher.
“Our offensive line has got to be one of our strong points for us,” Mullins said. “Both of our running backs – Tyler Vernatter and Worm Street – are back. We have two great wide receivers back in Josh Rein and Brett Musick. On the defensive side of the ball we return three out of four players from our defensive backfield on a team last year that had 20-plus interceptions. We expect our secondary to be very strong. Tyler Vernatter has started 20 or more games for us at linebacker. We have a lot of experience but we have to stay injury-free. That’s the biggest thing. We have five or six guys on the team that can’t get hurt. We just can’t have injuries at certain positions.”
Logan’s June three-week period was beneficial, Mullins said, and more than 40 of his players turned out to practice.
“We had 45 kids that pretty much came every day,” he said. “Forty-three of those players came out for the team. We were able to get a lot of our things in so we could go faster. But we still have a lot of inexperience and until we get some pads on some of these guys we’re not going to know.”
Logan will get its first preseason test on Saturday, Aug. 17 as the Class A Tug Valley Panthers come to Logan Stadium for a 6 p.m. scrimmage.
Then the following Saturday, Aug. 24, Logan heads to Ravenswood High School to take on the host Ravenswood Red Devils and the Herbert Hoover Huskies in the preseason finale.
When the end of the week rolls around, Mullins said his team will be looking forward to seeing action against another team. Logan and Tug Valley scrimmaged each other last season as well when the two met at Naugatuck.
“I think they do a good job with a lot of different alignments and a lot of different schemes,” Mullins said of preseason scrimmages. “What we’re looking for is to see how we can compete. When we get into the season we have a game plan and we have to try to get you to execute the game plan. But in the scrimmage games it’s more seeing who can compete and who can play.”
The Wildcats’ 2013 schedule looks a bit different.
New are a quartet of Class AAA teams in Point Pleasant, University, Greenbrier East and Nitro.
Point Pleasant, a former Class AA team in the Cardinal Conference and the 2011 Double-A state runner-up to Wayne, stepped in nicely in West Virginia’s highest classification last year and closed out with an 8-3 record, falling 49-28 at Morgantown in the first round of the Triple-A state playoffs.
University, a Morgantown-based Class AAA power, also advanced to the post-season last fall but lost 24-23 to Lewis County in the opening round.
Greenbrier East (3-6-1) and Nitro (2-8) both suffered losing seasons last year. Logan hasn’t played Nitro since 2002 when the Cats lost 51-0 on the road. Logan beat Nitro 38-21 in 2001 and lost to Nitro 21-7 in 2000.
The new four opponents replace Johnson Central (Ky.), Winfield, Huntington and Hurricane.
Logan plays Point Pleasant, Greenbrier East and Nitro this season at home and goes to University on Oct. 11.
The Greenbrier East game on Oct. 18 is Logan’s homecoming game.
After opening the season at Man and at Shady Spring on Sept. 6, Logan has its home opener on Sept. 13 against Lincoln County in Logan High School’s annual Hall of Fame Game.
The Wildcats then go to county rival Chapmanville on Sept. 27 before observing their open date on Oct. 4.
After the University game and the contest against East, Logan heads to Mingo Central on Oct. 25 and hosts Nitro on Nov. 1 before closing out the season Nov. 8 at home against Scott on Senior Night.