The three-week June summer practice period got under way on Monday for area high school sports teams.
For Logan County’s three prep football teams it’s a chance to get a jump-start on the upcoming 2015 season before official practices are scheduled to start in early August.
Logan High School’s football team is hoping to bounce back from last year’s 2-8 season.
The pieces seem to be in place for 12th-year head coach Gary Mullins and the Wildcats for improvement.
Many Logan players are returning this fall from last year’s young team, however, record-breaking quarterback Ryan Miller, as well as top receivers Zac Acord and Brenton Vance and some other top skilled position players, will be lost to graduation.
The Cats started last year with a disappointing 32-26 loss in overtime to Class A rival Man at home.
Logan then beat Shady Spring 33-13 at home and went to Hamlin in Week 3, winning 44-14 over the Lincoln County Panthers.
After the 2-1 start, Logan lost its last seven games.
It will be a new era for Logan Wildcats football this fall, as well as their county counterparts at Man and Chapmanville Regional.
All three schools are getting Field Turf and the $2.5 million project is already under way at Man. Bulldozing of the grass and the leveling of the playing surface is scheduled to get started this week at the Logan and Chapmanville football fields.
The entire project is supposed to be done in time for the 2015 season which begins in late August.
Logan, however, will have to find a new quarterback.
Miller, who passed for a school record 2,455 yards and 24 touchdowns, will have to be replaced.
“The quarterback position is always the toughest position to replace,” Mullins said. “When you have a quarterback that threw for more than 2,000 yards that makes it even worse. We’ve got four or five guys in the mix. There may be more. We’re going to see who is going to be our quarterback.”
Brian Farley, Daniel Browning, Jamal Minter and Matthew Brown are currently competing for Logan’s starting QB job and all four will get looks this summer.
“We’ll be blessed with all of our linemen. They were all new last year,” Mullins said. “They are all back and both running backs, Devonte Tolliver and Matthew Cox, are back and we won’t have to lean so heavily on the quarterback position this year. Tyler Browning and Daniel Browning are also back who got carries last year. It’s never easy to replace your quarterback. It’s the hardest position. you can replace any other position. You can find someone but the quarterback position is the hardest.”
Coach Mullins and the Wildcats hope to utilize the three-week period well.
Three 7-on-7 passing scrimmages are scheduled.
There will be a tri-scrimmage at Scott with Herbert Hoover and the host Skyhawks on Thursday at 7 p.m. This Saturday, Logan is set to compete in a 7-on-7 scrimmage at Concord University. Next Monday at 6 p.m., Logan has a 7-on-7 at Mingo Central.
“We’re putting in a new defense and this gives us an opportunity to see some of those things, too,” Mullins said. “I like the three-week period. I wish we could hit a little bit in it. The three-week period is good, though, because you can get a feel of what some of your athletes can do.”
The first day of regular practice is August 3.
Logan has two preseason scrimmages set. The first one is at Paintsville (Ky.). The second one will be either at home or at Wayne. The Cats scrimmaged the Paintsville Tigers at home last year.
“We have two good scrimmages and we’re looking forward to how we can compete there,” Mullins said.
Logan’s 2015 football schedule was recently completed.
New to Logan’s schedule this season will be Class AAA John Marshall and 2A squads Oak Hill and Sissonville. The three teams replace Brooke, University and Nitro.
The Wildcats and the Oak Hill Red Devils have some history.
The two teams last played in 2003 and 2004 in a home-and-home series.
Oak Hill beat Logan 28-13 in ‘03 at LHS. Then in 2004, the Wildcats went to Oak Hill and narrowly lost 26-20. That game is remembered for kicker Josh Welch, who booted a 43-yard field goal just before halftime.
The Red Devils went just 1-9 last year, dropping their last five games.
Logan is scheduled to play its first three games on the road — opening Aug. 28 at Man. The Cats then play at Shady Spring on Sept. 4 and at Lincoln County on Sept. 11.
The home opener is Sept. 18 against Point Pleasant. Logan then travels 12 miles down the road to county rival Chapmanville on Sept. 25 and are off on Oct. 2.
Then on Oct. 9, Logan hosts Greenbrier East before hosting John Marshall on Oct. 16. The Wildcats go to Sissonville on Oct. 23, host Oak Hill on Oct. 30 and then host Scott on Nov. 6 in the finale.
Logan has five home games and five away games — two of which are short trips within Logan County to Man and Chapmanville. The other away trips are to Shady, Sissonville and Lincoln County.
This will be the second straight year Logan will have played the LCHS Panthers on the road.
“It’s a good schedule but we play our first three games on the road,” Mullins. “We are home in Week 4, then we have our bye week so we are home only once in our first six weeks. That will make it a little bit tougher but you just have to get through it. We’ll be home-heavy on the back end. And with getting turf field conditions won’t be an issue anymore. You always worry playing those late games on grass and the field not having anything on it but you won’t have to worry about that anymore.”
Mullins said Field Turf construction is supposed to get started this week at Logan Stadium.
“My understanding is that they were going to get to us and Chapmanville this week,” he said. “We’ll be super happy to get it and to see it when it’s finished. We’ll be happy that we won’t have to paint the lines and stand in that mud.”
Over the years, Mullins and his staff have been the grounds crew as well, cutting the grass and reseeding.
The Logan Stadium grass over the years often broke down later in the football seasons due to heavy use and rainy weather which made it muddy.
“Me and a lot of my staff have been the grounds keepers,” Mullins said. “We’ve always been the ones who have taken care of the field to make sure that it was playable on Friday nights. I’m glad that will be over.”
Logan football will also have a new assistant coach this season, James Toth, who comes over from Man.
Toth, a Man High School football assistant coach, was recently hired.
Toth is a 1985 Man High School graduate and was a first-team all-stater in football. He’s also a member of the Man High School Hall of Fame.
2015 Logan High School
Aug. 28: at Man, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 4: at Shady Spring, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11: at Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 18: Point Pleasant (Hall of Fame Game), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25: at Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2: Open date
Oct. 9: Greenbrier East, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16: John Marshall (Homecoming), 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 23: at Sissonville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 30: Oak Hill, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 6: Scott, 7:30 p.m.