Few teams in West Virginia high school football have struggled more over the last decade than Lincoln County.
The Panthers, upon school consolidation, took their lumps as a member of the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Lincoln County then left the league and still took some lumps.
After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, only winning six games over the last five grid campaigns and having an 18-82 all-time record, Lincoln County is trying to start a new identity as a Double-A school.
Things haven’t gone so well in the early portion of the 2016 season as Lincoln County is 0-2 after losses to Point Pleasant (44-6) in Week 1 and Roane County (43-7) last week.
On the other hand, Logan is 2-0 in its first stint back as a Class AA school in nine years, opening the season with a 48-13 win over county rival Man and then pounding on the Poca Dots 61-11 last week in a game that wasn’t even that close.
Logan, ranked No. 8 in the state in this week’s Class AA WV MetroNews Power Index, seem to be clicking on all cylinders, led by freshman phenom quarterback David Early.
The pickings seem to be prime for Logan to go 3-0 as the Wildcats host Lincoln County this Friday night in the Cats’ third straight home game to start the season.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Logan Stadium.
Logan will go into the game as the heavy favorites, just as it did last week against the Dots, a team on a 29-game losing skid.
But just like last week, the Wildcats aren’t going to overlook anybody, including the downtrodden Panthers.
Logan hopes to be business-like and take care of Lincoln County on Friday night.
“We watched them on film and they are a whole lot more physical than last year,” Logan coach Gary Mullins said. “Their quarterback is good and they have a lot of good receivers. They look like a good football team and in the past they have given us some real good football games. We’re just making sure that we are trying to get better every day at practice and worry about what we do. If we do that we feel like we’re going to be successful.”
Lincoln County is coached by Randy Adkins, who took over last season for the Panthers, which have never made the playoffs and have never been able to enjoy a single winning season.
The good news for Lincoln County is that the potential for improvement is there as eight starters are back each on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Leading the way for the Panthers at quarterback is senior and three-year starter Jake Ashley (6-3, 185).
Senior wide receivers Corey Rusk and Nate Spencer and senior tight end Shane Wells are Ashley’s top targets.
LCHS, however, looks to beat it out with its ground-and-pound running attack.
The Panthers, though, received a blow during the off-season as leading rusher and top scorer Tristan Browning bolted school and transferred to Chapmanville Regional High School.
Juniors Koltyn Beckelheimer and DJ Dirickson have filled the void so far at running back, along with Jacob Taylor and Tanner Walls, a sophomore.
On the offensive line, Lincoln County has three returning starters — Dylan Dunlap (5-11, 180), Trevor Toppings (6-5, 285) and Jake Kirkendoll (6-5, 230).
On the other side of the ball, Dunlap, Kirkendoll, Spencer and Toppings anchor the LCHS defensive line. Dirickson returns at linebacker and in the secondary junior Justin Butcher and Rusk are back at the corners.
“They’ve played Point Pleasant and that’s a really good team,” Mullins said. “They also played Roane County and they are a big, strong team. Both of those teams are really good and I feel a lot of teams would be 0-2 after playing them.”
The Wildcats had several big performances last week.
Early, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound frosh, accounted for seven touchdowns — six passing and one rushing — as the Wildcats won in a blitzkrieg over the Dots last Friday night at Logan Stadium.
Early was 13 of 20 passing for 243 yards with TD passes covering 12, 39, 30, 14, 9 and 34 yards. He also ran with the ball five times for 39 yards and an 8-yard TD run.
On the season Early is 25 of 38 (65.8 percent) passing for 483 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions.
Against the Dots, senior wide receiver Braxton Goff had three catches for 77 yards and two TD grabs of 39 and 14 yards. Goff, a first-year Logan football player and a member of the LHS basketball team, now has seven total touchdowns on the season with eight grabs for 199 yards and also two rushing TDs.
Jamal Minter has six catches for 129 yards and two TDs on the season.
Michael Hall leads the ground game after two weeks with 156 yards on just four rushes and a touchdown. Early has 13 carries for 69 yards and two scores. Hall also has five catches for 62 yards.
A total of 12 Wildcats have at least one carry through two games.
On defense, middle linebacker Cody Maynard led Logan with eight tackles. Shawntez Matthews had seven tackles, while Tyler Browning had six stops.
Daniel Browning had two sacks and Cezar Cruz one. Maynard and Felder each had a pass breakup. Browning had a punt block. Hall also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Matthews leads Logan with 16 total tackles after two games. Maynard has 14 tackles, a caused fumble and two pass breakups. Daniel Browning has 12 stops, two sacks, a punt block and a QB pressure.
Kicker Chris Watkins is 3-for-4 in extra point boots.
“After the first two weeks we’ve really done pretty well on both sides of the ball,” Mullins said. “The defense after the first three quarters last week held them to negative yards. Our defense don’t get talked about quite enough.”
Logan leads LCHS 7-1 in the all-time series and have won seven straight.
The Panthers won the first ever meeting, 28-7, in 2008.
Football Friday night
WHAT: Lincoln County (0-2) at No. 8 Logan (2-0)
WHEN: Friday night, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Logan Stadium, Logan, W.Va.
SURFACE: Field Turf
LAST WEEK: Logan won 61-11 over Poca, Lincoln County lost 43-7 to Roane County.
LAST YEAR’S MEETING: Logan beat LC 44-12
ALL-TIME SERIES: Logan leads 7-1
Logan vs. Lincoln County
All-Time Football Series
(Logan leads 7-1)
2015: Logan 44, Lincoln County 12
2014: Logan 40, Lincoln County 14
2013: Logan 51, Lincoln County 13
2012: Logan 48, Lincoln County 0
2011: Logan 42, Lincoln County 20
2010: Logan 9, Lincoln County 6
2009: Logan 20, Lincoln County 6
2008: Lincoln County 28, Logan 7
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).