Gary Mullins doesn’t believe in tune-up games.
While many college football teams get ready for the meat of their seasons by getting fat on early season cupcakes from the FCS, the Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences, Logan High School is facing some stiff competition during its prep preseason.
Mullins, the Logan football coach, said it’s all geared up to get ready for the Wildcats’ 2015 regular season opener on Aug. 28 at county rival Man.
It all gets started for Logan this Saturday at Paintsville (Ky.) as the Wildcats are set to take on host Paintsville and Tug Valley.
Then on Aug. 21, Logan hits the road again for the final preseason test at state powerhouse Wayne.
“Everything that we do is geared toward the Man game and trying to win that first game, so that’s why we play these teams,” said 12th-year head coach Mullins, who has led Logan to five playoff appearances.
Logan scrimmaged Paintsville and Tug Valley last year at home in the preseason opener.
Both have solid programs.
Paintsville, a Class A school, made a deep playoff run in last year’s Kentucky playoffs, and finished 11-3.
The Paintsville Tigers are led by quarterback/inside linebacker Kash Daniel, one of the state’s best players, and a University of Kentucky signee.
Tug Valley was 11-2 last year and reached the Class A state semifinals. The Panthers are a preseason No. 3-ranked team in the state.
Saturday’s tri-scrimmage is set to start at 6 p.m. at Paintsville’s Walter J. Brugh Complex at Memorial Field.
“We’ve played a couple 7-on-7s over there, so we’ve been there a few times,” Mullins said of Paintsville. “We go at 6 o’clock against Paintsville and Tug Valley. We’re going to try to rotate every year. Last year, we were here and next year we’ll go to Tug Valley, then it will come back to here. These three teams are going to try to stay together and keep playing each other.”
Mullins said his team will be put to the test on both sides of the ball by Daniel, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder and Kentucky Mr. Football candidate.
Daniel made an impact on both sides of the ball last year for the Tigers.
As a quarterback he rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards and figured in more than 20 touchdowns.
On defense, Daniel amassed 180 total tackles, including 111 solos, to lead Paintsville. He had four interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns.
Daniel, who picked UK over Louisville, South Carolina, Florida and others, is listed as the ninth-best inside linebacker in the nation. He picked Kentucky on the Fourth of July in a ceremony attended by many family and friends decked out in UK shirts and gear.
“He’s going to Kentucky and he had a lot of other options,” Mullins said of Daniel. “There’s no doubt that we will be tested. He was out here at Logan last year when we played them. He was a great player then too.”
The Wildcats will be facing an old Logan friend in Paintsville head coach Joe Chirico, a 1989 Logan High School graduate and member of the LHS Hall of Fame.
Chirico was hired as Paintsville’s head coach in 2013 and led the Tigers to an 8-4 season his first year there after being a longtime assistant for 11 years on the PHS staff. Previously, Chirico was an assistant coach for four years at Prestonsburg (Ky.).
Chirico was a two-time all-state selection in football at Logan and also played basketball for the Wildcats. He went on to play football at Marshall University.
Coach Mullins said it will be good to see Chirico again.
“Coach Joe Chirico is a Logan High graduate,” Mullins said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. We’ve always had a great relationship with him. He was an assistant coach here back in the day. He helped a little bit when I was younger. He’s a great football coach, that’s for sure.”
Mullins said he has toughened up Logan’s preseason schedule over the last several years.
“That’s how we want it,” he said. “When I came here our scrimmage schedule was really light and we would get to the Man game and there would be no adversity that we had faced. We would just kind of walk through those first couple of scrimmages. I said then that we needed to start playing as good of teams that we can get. About six or seven years ago we changed that. We’ve gotten better.”
Mullins said getting ready for the Man game is the top goal.
Last year, the Hillbillies came to Logan and upended the Wildcats 32-26 in overtime. The Wildcats then won their next two games but lost their last seven to finish with a disappointing 2-8 season.
“We know that Man is very physical,” Mullins said. “They are going to hit you in the mouth and they are going to come right at you and try to out-man you. Who better to get you ready for that than Wayne. There’s no better team that you can get. Paintsville is also very physical and runs a similar defense that they do. Tug Valley is good, too. They beat them (Man) twice last year and have a lot returning.”
Paintsville lost 32-21 at Raceland in the third round of the Class A state playoffs last year after wins over Allen Central and Pikeville.
The Tigers have a rich tradition in athletics.
Famous Paintsville alumns include: 1987 Mr. Kentucky basketball standout John Pelphrey, the former coach at Arkansas; and Johnnie LeMaster, a former Major League shortstop for the San Francisco Giants, the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland A’s in the 1970s and 1980s.
Paintsville, led by future Mr. Basketball winner and Marshall University standout J.R. VanHoose, won the 1996 state roundball championship.
Paintsville’s football field is named after former legendary coach Walter Brugh, who led the Tigers for 39 years in a coaching stint which spanned the 1950s until his retirement in 1994. He died last year at the age of 87.
Brugh went 280-136-5 at Paintsville and was Kentucky’s all-time winningest football coach when he stepped down. He now ranks 11th.
Paintsville once played in a ballgame called The Apple Bowl, against cross-town rival Johnson Central, during the city’s annual fall Apple Festival.
The game was discontinued in 2008 because of the size differential of the schools. Johnson Central, a large 4A school, had dominated Paintsville for years and the games were often mismatches. In the Brugh era, Paintsville often had the upper hand on Johnson Central.
The winner of the Apple Bowl didn’t receive a generic, lame trophy. Instead, the victors were given an iconic prize — an actual apple cider barrel with all of the scores of the games inscribed on the sides.
Paintsville has won 20 district championships in football.
Logan isn’t scheduled to have its home opener on its new Field Turf until Week 4 of the season when the Wildcats host Point Pleasant in the annual Logan Hall of Fame Game on Sept. 18.
The Cats open with three straight away games — Aug. 28 at Man, Sept. 4 at Shady Spring and Sept. 11 at Lincoln County.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).