The Logan High School football team has a challenge this fall.
With lots of starters lost to graduation and many new faces the Wildcats will have a lot of growing up to do.
Logan hit the practice field last Monday for the first time and have been hard at work for the upcoming season.
The Cats went 7-4 last season and qualified for the Class AAA playoffs but lost 41-14 on the road at Point Pleasant in the opening round.
Logan has a long way to go to reach that goal again this fall as the Cats appear to be in rebuilding mode.
“Right now, we have 52 players out for the team,” Logan 11th-year coach Gary Mullins said. “Practices have went real well and we’re building on the three-week practice period in June. I am way more satisfied at this point than I thought I would be at this moment because of all of the younger guys that we have on the team. It’s been great so far and we’re excited to see how they go.”
Logan was hit hard by graduation and have lost 18 seniors, including: Tyler Vernatter, Daniel Hanks, Tyler Workman, Tyler Vance, Stephen Dilly, Worm Street, Clayton Marcum, Brett Musick, Josh Rein, William Browning, Kyle Runyon, Preston Hepler, Jacob Vance, Jody Butcher, Chance Ooten, Ty Yeager, Daniel Miller and Daniel Faine.
The biggest loss for Logan was Street, who was a major player for the Cats both on offense and defense and also on the special teams.
Street is headed to play Division II football at Glenville State. He had an outstanding 2013 season as he rushed for 1,444 yards on 167 carries and scored 14 touchdowns. As a receiver, Street had six catches for 177 yards and two more scores. In the defensive secondary, Street had 60 tackles and was also a major player on special teams.
Just as big a loss was Rein. Last year for the Wildcats, Rein reeled in 38 passes for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. Rein also played some quarterback and was 6-for-15 passing for 132 yards with two TDs and one interception. Rein added 220 yards rushing and four touchdowns as well.
Logan also had heavy losses on its offensive and defensive lines due to graduation.
But the good news is that the cupboard is not completely bare.
Back at quarterback is rising senior Ryan Miller, who was 39-for-81 passing for 751 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions last season.
Logan’s other quarterback with some experience, rising sophomore Noah Corbett, however, transferred away to Belfry High School in Kentucky. Corbett was 28-for-51 passing for 377 yards with six touchdowns and three picks last season as a frosh.
With the graduation of Rein, Street, Marcum and Musick, Logan’s top four receivers are also gone.
Logan’s starting backfield of Street and Vernatter will also have to be replaced. Vernatter ran for 435 yards last season on 77 carries and scored eight touchdowns as Logan’s starting fullback.
“We lost 18 seniors,” Mullins said. “We lost our entire offensive line. We lost Worm, who started 30 games. We lost Clayton, Workman, Vernatter and they all started 30. We’ve got a lot of guy who we have to replace but we’re looking forward to the season and getting out there to see what these young guys can bring to the table. We want to put the best product that we can out there.”
On defense, leading tackler and middle linebacker Jacob Browning is back. He had 82 stops last year.
Jeremiah Spears, a tight end and linebacker, also returns. Chester Bradsher (WR/DB) will also be counted on to produce. Basketball players Zac Acord and Brenton Vance appear to be two of Logan’s possible top targets at wide receiver as preseason practices got under way last week.
Marcum (61 tackles), Dilly (59 tackles), Vernatter (57 tackles), Workman (60 tackles and five interceptions) and Hepler (44 tackles) were also key losses on defense.
Logan must also find a new kicker as Hanks has graduated. He was 34-for-45 in PATs last season and also added a 26-yard field goal. Hanks also handled some of the punting duties.
The Wildcats have two preseason scrimmages — Saturday, Aug. 16 at home against Tug Valley, River View and Paintsville (Ky.) and Aug. 22 at Wayne, last year’s 2A state runner-ups.
“We’re excited to get out there on Saturday to see how we match up against another team,” Mullins said.
Saturday’s scrimmage begins at 6 p.m. The Wayne scrimmage is set for 7 p.m.
“Our guys are so used to seeing our players. We’re excited to see how they will line up against another team and see how they will react to adverse situations,” Mullins said.
Logan’s upcoming 2014 football season has only one change as the Wildcats will play host to Class AAA Brooke, which replaces 2A Mingo Central. The Wildcats play Brooke in Week 6 on Oct. 3 at the Logan Football Stadium.
The season opener is set for Aug. 29 at home against Man. The Wildcats beat the Class A Hillbillies 40-20 on the road last season. Man went on to go 9-1 and host a first-round playoff game.
In Week 2, Logan hosts Shady Spring on Sept. 5 before going to Lincoln County on Sept. 12.
In the fourth week, the Cats play at Point Pleasant before hosting 2A county rival Chapmanville on Sept. 26. Logan beat the Tigers 27-14 on the road last season.
After the Brooke game, Logan hosts 3A University on Oct. 10 and then heads to Class AAA Greenbrier East on Oct. 17.
Logan observes a bye week on Oct. 24, then closes out the regular season with two away games — Oct. 31 at 3A Nitro and Nov. 7 at 2A Scott.
Mingo Central had to drop Logan from its schedule because the Miners had to make room for a Cardinal Conference game against Sissonville in order to have a full slate of seven league contests.
Coach Mullins is returning for his 11th season this fall.
Initially, it looked like last year was going to be his last.
At the start of the 2013 season, Mullins had secretly told his players that he was going to be stepping down at season’s end. Then he made his intentions known to the public in the final weeks of the grid campaign.
But during the off-season, Mullins had an apparent change of heart and decided to stay on as the Wildcats’ coach.
Mullins had joked about replacing himself as Logan’s coach.
“That’s pretty easy to do,” he quipped.
Mullins, a 1997 Logan High School graduate and former quarterback of the Wildcats, has been with the program in some capacity for many years.
He was a former LHS assistant coach under ex-head coach George Barker in the early 2000s. Then, when Barker resigned after the 2003 season and went to coach at his alma mater Chapmanville, Mullins was hired to lead the Cats. At only 24, he was one of the youngest coaches in the state.
The Wildcats have tasted much success under Mullins as Logan has advanced to five out of the school’s six all-time playoff berths under the Logan graduate.
Logan’s fifth playoff appearance under Mullins happened last November in the defeat at the hands of Point Pleasant. Logan has a 50-53 record in 10 years under Mullins.
The Wildcats have enjoyed four straight winning seasons, a 28-15 mark and three playoff berths since 2010.
Logan was 3-7, 5-6 and 4-6 from 2004-06 upon Mullins’ arrival.
2014 Logan High School
Aug. 29: Man, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5: Shady Spring, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: at Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19: at Point Pleasant, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26: Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3: Brooke, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10: University, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17: at Greenbrier East, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24: OPEN DATE
Oct. 31: at Nitro, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7: at Scott, 7:30 p.m.
2013 Logan High School
Football Schedule (7-4):
Aug. 30: at Man, W 40-20
Sept. 6: at Shady Spring, W 39-0
Sept. 13: Lincoln County (Hall of Fame Game), W 51-14
Sept. 20: Point Pleasant, L 21-37
Sept. 27: at Chapmanville, W 27-14
Oct. 4: OPEN DATE
Oct. 11: at University, L 20-49
Oct. 18: Greenbrier East (Homecoming), W 48-29
Oct. 25: at Mingo Central, L 20-26
Nov. 1: Nitro, W 40-14
Nov. 8: Scott (Senior Night), W 42-13
Nov. 15: at Point Pleasant (3A playoffs), L 14-41