LOGAN, W.Va. — Legendary Texas Longhorns football coach Darrell Royal once had a famous quip when asked about his opinion on throwing the ball.
“There are three things that can happen on a forward pass – and two of them are bad,” Royal once joked.
He meant an incompletion and an interception, of course.
Gary Mullins, however, proved that point wrong in his coaching career at Logan High School.
Mullins officially stepped down as the Wildcats’ coach this week after 13 seasons, 61 wins and five playoff appearances, three of them at the Class AAA level, the highest classification in West Virginia prep football.
When Mullins first put on the headsets in 2004, the former Logan Offensive Coordinator looked to change the Wildcats’ offensive scheme.
The change was very profound.
Logan opened up the offense in a big way, often running out of the four wide receiver spread and keeping opposing team’s defenses on their toes.
No longer would the Wildcats just pass the ball as a third-and-long necessity.
Logan might throw the bomb in first down, set up the pass to open up the run and use screen passes and trick plays to make it exciting.
A Mullins staple was the hook-and-ladder play, or as Mullins called it, the hook-and-lateral.
How many times did that play work over the last decades-plus?
Almost every season it seemed to be sucessful.
Mullins said his pass-centric offensive scheme went all the way back to his days at the old Logan Junior High School more than 20 years ago.
“It all stems back to Steve Vance for me at Logan Junior High School,” Mullins said. “This is where this system started for me. We just took what he had and added no-huddle and some of our own passing routes. When I was playing at Logan Junior High School back in the early 90s we were basically running this same system.”
Mullins might have been a little bit biased.
He was a quarterback himself at Logan High School and helped the team orchestrate one of the school’s biggest upsets, a 22-21 victory over the Capital Cougars in 1996 at Charleston’s Laidley Field. That team featured Michael “Kool-Aid” Owens, who later went on to start at Marshall, playing in four bowl games from his defensive back position.
Mullins was blessed to have a talented bunch of quarterbacks in his 13 years.
In 2014, Ryan Miller had a huge season under center, breaking a single season Logan record for passing yards with 2,455 as he connected on 160-of-312 passes for a 51.3 completion rate. He also tossed 24 touchdowns — third best in the state.
That year, Miller’s favorite target was Zac Acord, a basketball player, who came out for football and reeled in 72 passes for 1,080 yards and 10 touchdowns and was one of the state’s top wide receivers.
Upon taking the Logan job in 2004, Mullins had quarterback Justin Taylor, who could sling the ball around the field as well, one time putting up 57 passes in a single game against Scott. Taylor would lead Logan to the 2005 Class AA playoffs, the Wildcats’ first post-season berth since 1990.
Later on in the 2007 season, freshman quarterback David Brown ended up being Logan’s starter and began a successful four-year run, leading LHS to a playoff appearance that year and then again as a senior in 2010.
The 2010 Brown and the Wildcats ran out of the spread, eventually falling at George Washington in the Class AAA playoffs.
Brown’s favorite target was Deyonta Coleman, a basketball player and first-year senior gridder, who ended up with nearly 900 receiving yards.
There were other fine quarterbacks in the Coach Mullins era, too, including Chris Marcum and Kahleel Reynolds, who could tuck it and go and also run out of the Wildcat formation.
This fall, freshman phenom David Early broke onto the West Virginia high school football scene at QB.
The freshman started off the season with a bang as he tossed a 75-yard swing pass for a touchdown to senior wideout Braxton Goff in Logan’s 48-13 win over county rival Man in the Coalfield Kickoff Classic.
Early was impressive as he completed 12-of-18 passes for 240 yards and four TDs on scoring strikes covering 75, 75, 4 and 27 yards.
For the season Early was 89 of 150 (59.3 percent) passing for 1,525 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Early also ran for 321 yards on 67 attempts and scored five TDs.
Early was 16 of 24 passing for 268 yards and two TDs on strikes of 83 and 48 yards in Logan’s season-ending win at Scott, which closed out the Wildcats at 5-5.
Looking back, Mullins said he enjoyed opening up Logan’s offense with the passing game.
“We felt like we always had an exciting brand of football,” Mullins said. “It was fun to watch. What we tried to do was to make it appealing so we could get the best athletes out. Everybody knows that this is a basketball town. So we tried to make it where those guys that hadn’t played much football in their lives we be able to come out and compete and be successful right off the bat.”
Mullins said Logan was able to spread the field with many talented wide receivers.
“We’ve had some good athletes like Zac Acord and Braxton Goff this year. We also had Brenton Vance and Cameron Sammons and also Deyonta Coleman and that’s just a few of them,” he said. “All of those came out for football, pretty much one-year guys, and they were able to succeed and be instrumental in us winning. We wanted to make it exciting for the kids and the fans and we hoped to win some games along the way.”
Logan has been absent from the playoffs since 2013.
The Wildcats were just 2-8 in 2014 and 4-6 in 2015 before a getting to a 5-5 mark this year.
Logan has yet to win a playoff game in school history, going 0-6 all time and 0-5 under Mullins.
“We wished that we were able to get a few more wins and got that playoff win but no matter what, if I’m an assistant or a fan or and old man I’ll definitely be there for that first playoff win,” Mullins said. “I will be the biggest fan.”
Mullins said he thanked his many players for their hard work over the years.
“I’ve been blessed to have some great players that put a lot of time in the weight room and a lot of time preparing for the seasons,” Mullins said. “We were blessed to get into the playoffs five times. That was the first step for us. We definitely attained some goals here. I felt like every time we played on Friday night we knew that they had to be prepared if they wanted to beat us. Our kids played hard and gave a great effort and hopefully made Logan proud with the effort that they gave.”
— Part III of this three-part feature story on Gary Mullins will appear in Sunday’s Logan Banner sports section.