There’s a lot to prove on Friday night for both the Logan and Mingo Central high school football teams.
Logan improved to 5-2 last week with a 48-29 homecoming win over Greenbrier East and are hoping to climb up the Class AAA playoff rankings and inch closer to a berth in the post-season.
Mingo Central is also 5-2 after scoring a huge 20-14 Cardinal Conference victory last week at Chapmanville and sliding into third place behind Wayne and Sissonville in the league standings. Ranked No. 14 last week in Class AA, the Miners are fighting for their playoff lives as well and hope to secure a second straight trip to the post-season with a victory over a 3A school.
With a lot of things on the line the Logan-Mingo Central football game is shaping up to be a huge matchup, not only in southern West Virginia, but across the state.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
Logan is 2-0 all-time against Mingo Central, a newly created consolidated school made up of the former Gilbert, Burch, Matewan and Williamson high schools.
Logan coach Gary Mullins said everyone knows what’s at stake this week. Logan rose to 13th in this week’s Class AAA rankings and are hoping to nail down a playoff berth in the coming weeks.
“A lot of points are on the line this week. It would be identical to Greenbrier East,” Mullins said. “They are a very good football team. They have a lot of good players and they have beat a lot of good teams. We don’t expect anything but a tough game from them. Last year towards the end of the game we had to run a fake punt to beat them. From what everything I’ve heard and seen they are much improved from last year. We know that this is going to be a tough one.”
Logan played very well last week in the win over Greenbrier East. The Wildcats led just 21-14 at the half but pushed the lead at one point to 41-14 and began to pull some of its starting players. The final 19-point margin was a bit deceiving because the game really wasn’t that close.
Coach Mullins and the Logan football braintrust surprised some by starting senior wide receiver Josh Rein at quarterback. Rein, a noted baseball standout at Logan and basketball player, saw some time at QB in the 49-20 loss at University two weeks ago but had never started a game under center at the varsity level.
Rein looked like a seasoned pro as he rushed nine times for 114 yards and scored on TD runs of 25, 13, 6 and 49. He was 3-for-5 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown, including an 80-yard bomb to running a back Brynden “Worm” Street.
“We’ve got to get the ball into his hands where he could be a playmaker,” Mullins said of Rein. “It seemed like we were having a hard time getting the ball to him when he was at receiver because they were double covering him a lot. This way, he touches it every time. We had 50-some snaps the other night and he touched it every time. It’s a big play opportunity every time that he touches it. Our offensive line, fullback, tight ends and wide receivers have been blocking tremendously the entire year. Last Friday night, they were great. As long as they keep blocking like that I think that we’re going to be a hard football team to beat.”
Street tore through the Spartan defense as well as he rolled up 252 yards on the ground on 24 carries (10.5 ypc.) and scored on TD runs of 1 and 8.
As a team, the Wildcats amassed 547 yards of total offense, including 436 yards rushing on 46 carries.
Leading by only a score at the half, the hail mary touchdown pass to Street made it 28-14 Logan. Then Street scored on his two touchdown runs as Logan put the win away late in the third quarter.
Looking ahead to this week, Mullins said Mingo Central will be a very tough opponent.
“I think they are good and this is the best team that they’ve had,” Mullins said. “We’re going there and it’s always a tough place to play, even in back in the day with Matewan it was a tough place to win. We’re going to have to make sure that we’re ready to play. The last time that we were up there it was a dog fight to the end, so we don’t expect anything different.”
Weather could also be a factor in Friday’s game.
The 5,000-seat Harless Stadium, situated on top of a 2,000-foot mountain at Newtown, often has windy and cold conditions. Since the elevation is so high, temperatures are sometimes seven or eight degrees colder than down in the valley.
Last October before Halloween when the Logan area received a freak three-inch snowstorm, Harless Stadium and the mountaintop had more than a foot of snow dumped on it. Snow plows had to be brought in to haul away the snow from the FieldTurf before the Miners’ next game.
Friday’s forecast on the mountain is very cold with temperatures expected to dip below freezing at 31 degrees. The forecast high is only 47 but at least there’s a zero percent chance of precipitation and that means no snow.
Bring the longjohns, a hat and an extra thick coat.
“We have to go up there on the hill this week and it’s going to be cold and windy,” Mullins said. “But as you get into the playoffs the weather is going to be bad every week. Both teams have to play in it. We just know going in that it’s going to be a tough game. Other than University, we feel like they are going to be our best opponent. They are a very good team and always play well up there. It seems like they always have a big homefield advantage — a little bigger advantage than most places that you go. You definitely have to be ready to play.”
Chapmanville led Mingo Central 14-8 last week at halftime before the Miners rallied for two second half touchdowns and the win. Deonta Joplin scored from 30 yards out to tie it up. Then with 6:46 left in the game, Chase Lester scored on a 4-yard TD run for the game winner.
Joplin rushed for a career high 193 yards on 19 carries and a TD for the Miners. Lester had 10 tries for 47 yards.
The Miners, coached by veteran mentor Yogi Kinder, ran with the ball 33 times for 282 yards.
Mingo Central’s defense allowed 339 total yards of offense to Chapmanville, which had 42 rushes for 269 yards. Chapmanville’s Devin Wiley ran for 109 yards on 25 carries on the Miners.
Mingo Central began the season with a 27-26 loss at home to Wyoming East. The Miners then won three straight over Tolsia (20-19), Webster County (45-24) and Westside (22-8) before losing on Oct. 4 at home to Class AA No. 1 and two-time defending state champion Wayne (40-12). Mingo Central then went to Poca on Oct. 11 and crushed the Dots 68-14 before getting the hard fought win at Chapmanville last Friday night.
On the season, Street has 92 rushes for 864 yards — an average of 9.4 yards per carry — with eight touchdowns.
“He has 860-some yards on the season and he missed a whole game and he didn’t play in the entire second half against Chapmanville,” Mullins said of Street. He’s having a great year. I was even more proud of his, and the rest of the effort my defense had last Friday night.”
Rein is 6-for-9 passing for 132 yards with two TDs on the season.
Freshman Noah Corbett and junior Ryan Miller have also seen time at quarterback for the Wildcats. Corbett is 27-for-50 passing for 375 yards with six touchdowns and three picks. Miller is 12-for-25 for 253 yards and three TDs.
As a wide receiver, Rein has 21 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns. Brett Musick has nine catches for 121 yards, while Street has two catches for 110 yards — both touchdowns.
On the ground, Senior Tyler Vernatter has 47 rushes for 260 yards and six touchdowns. Matt Cox has 31 carries for 295 yards and three TDs. Rein has 16 attempts for 170 yards and four scores. Corbett has another 103 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Senior kicker Daniel Hanks has quietly had a good year with his foot as he is 23-for-28 in extra point kicks for 82.1 percent. He had a touchback on a kickoff last week and has been punting of late as well.
“He’s hit 50-plus yard field goals in practice,” Mullins said of Hanks. “He had two of the biggest plays last Friday night when he got those snaps over his head into the end zone and punted them out. He’s been a great asset to us. Overall, he’s been a tremendous addition. We knew we were going to lose a lot this season when Brian Craft graduated. Daniel has stepped right in there and has done a great job for us.”
On defense, Logan is led by Jacob Browning with 49 total tackles. Stephen Dilly has 44, Clayton Marcum 43 and Tyler Workman 42. Vernatter has 38 stops, A.J. Grimmett 32, Street 29, Preston Hepler 27 and Musick 25.
Grimmett leads in QB sacks with four. Cox has two sacks.
Workman leads in pass breakups with six while Marcum has five.
Browning leads Logan in fumble recoveries with two.
Dilly and Vernatter each have two caused fumbles.
Workman leads in interceptions with three, while Musick and Marcum have two each.
Heading into last week’s game, sophomore Joplin led Mingo Central with 356 yards rushing on 62 carries for a 5.7 yard average. He had scored five touchdowns.
Lester had 317 yards on 47 tries with five TDs. He was averaging 6.7 yards a carry.
Senior fullback Dakweon Willis had 260 yards on 45 carries for a 5.8 average and four TDs, while sophomore quarterback Hammond had 167 yards on 46 totes with five rushing TDs.
Hammond was 37-for-62 passing for 638 yards, with eight TDs and six interceptions.
Senior Alex Lee had caught 16 passes for 374 yards and four TDs.
Logan-Mingo Central All-Time
Football Series (Logan leads 2-0):
2012: Logan 28, Mingo Central 16
2011: Logan 22, Mingo Central 8