LOGAN – Two teams eager to end long playoff droughts Friday night in Logan, where a victory would be a huge step toward that goal.
Cardinal Conference rivals Scott and Logan meet for the 44th time in school history, but very often has the game carried much importance in terms of playoff implications as it does Friday night.
The Skyhawks (4-1), currently tied with three others for ninth in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Class AA ratings, have not qualified for the playoffs in seven years.
“I tell our players all the time to be proud of what they have accomplished so far,” Scott coach Jeremy Dolin said. “At the same time there is no reason to be satisfied. We are at the halfway point and our goal is the playoffs, but you don’t make them in week five.”
The Wildcats (4-2), ranked 17th, have not qualified for the playoffs in eight years.
“To be honest we don’t pay attention to the rankings until the last week,” Logan coach Gary Mullins said. “I guess it’s fun to look at, but they don’t count until November.”
A win by Scott could propel them into the top five when the ratings are released Tuesday afternoon while a loss could place them on the playoff bubble with four games to play.
“Obviously it has huge implications on the ratings for the winner,” Dolin said. “We have to go out and earn that spot if we want to claim it.”
A win for the Wildcats would remove them from the playoff bubble with a tough stretch to close out the season. The Wildcats could jump into the top 12 with a victory while a loss could potentially drop the Wildcats out of the top 20.
“We both got a lot of tough games left and this one could propel the winner in the right direction,” Mullins said. “We are excited to play meaningful October football.”
Friday night’s contest will also have implications on the Cardinal Conference standings as well. Currently Herbert Hoover leads the way with a 5-0 conference, Poca is second at 3-0 while Logan, Scott and Winfield are tied for third with a 3-1 conference mark.
Scott lost to Herbert Hoover in week one and has yet to play Poca and Winfield. Logan has lost to Winfield, but has yet to play Herbert Hoover and Poca.
Dolin said the remaining schedule will help determine whether his team is in the top three or not.
“Hoover and Poca have shown that they are definitely in it, but if we want to claim it then we have to go out and earn that spot,” Dolin said. “I think that between us, Logan and Winfield there is someone in there will be the other team in the upper part of the conference.”
All five schools are currently in the top 20 of the Class AA ratings this week with Hoover second, Poca third, Scott ninth, Winfield 16th and Logan 17th.
“Hopefully come November the Cardinal Conference can be represented by three, four of five teams in the playoffs,” Dolin said.
After a season opening loss, Scott has won four straight games and has outscored the opposition 157-78 in those four games.
The Skyhawks are coming off a bye and haven’t played since a 26-23 victory over rival Chapmanville on Sept. 24.
“The bye week was good for us mentally and physically,” Dolin said. “We have a few nagging injuries and some are still nursing those, but also we are getting some key rotational guys back from injury and quarantine.”
Chapmanville led for the majority of the contest and held a 23-19 lead after three quarters. Cooper Martin put the Skyhawks ahead for good with a 2-yard touchdown with 11:21 to play.
Dolin, in his first season as Scott coach, gave credit to the Tigers coaching staff and learned a lesson in what the game meant to both programs.
“Coach (James) Barker scouted us well and definitely had a game plan that his players executed very well,” Dolin said. “I don’t think we played bad, we could have played better, but we were very fortunate to walk out with a victory.”
Logan snapped a two-game losing streak last win with a dominating defense performance in a 19-0 shutout of Nitro.
Logan’s defense limited Nitro to just 123 yards of total offense while Jordan Hayes and Carson Kirk hooked up for two touchdowns passes for an offense that 332 yards.
“We had some ups and downs last week, but overall we played pretty well,” Mullins said. “Defense was lights out all night and the offense did enough to keep us ahead of the sticks and in control of the game.”
Mullins knows that his team is going to have to played better this week and if they are to celebrate a homecoming victory over Scott they must match their intensity.
“I think Scott is coached well and they play extremely hard,” Mullins said. “If we match their intensity and effort, we feel like we will be in good shape.”
Sophomore quarterback Matt Frye has thrown for 816 yards and six touchdowns in five games this season. Martin, a senior running back, has rushed for 525 yards on 104 attempts and has scored eight touchdowns this season. Junior receiver Jayden Sharps leads the Skyhawks receiving core with 381 yards on 18 receptions. Senior Landon Stone has six catches for 183 yards and a team-high three touchdowns while freshman Carson Brinegar has hauled in seven receptions for 165 yards.
“They win a lot of jump balls and their running backs run the ball as hard as anyone as we have played,” Mullins said. “They fly around the ball on both sides and make plays all over the field.”
Friday’s game will feature the top two passers in the Cardinal Conference. Frye is the second leading passer in the conference while Logan’s Jordan Hayes leads the way with 1,188 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Hayes has completed 72-of-132 passes on the season and is averaging nearly 200 yards per contest through the air.
Senior Carson Kirk, one of Hayes’ favorite targets, leads the Wildcats with 521 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 27 receptions. Junior Aiden Slack has caught 30 balls for 485 yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats this season.
“The key for us is not allowing big plays to the skill guys,” Dolin said. “We have to own the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, be disciplined and avoid turnovers to have a shot to win.”
Dolin expects a battle from Logan, who leads the all time series with Scott 30-11-2 and has won the past five meetings with the Skyhawks, said he is looking forward to matching up with the Wildcats and Coach Mullins.
“I look forward to the strategic battles with Coach Mullins,” Dolin said. “I have a ton of respect for what he does on and off the field and with how he has treated me personally as a fellow coach.”
Logan will be playing the game with heavy hearts as Nathan Bush, a 2008 graduate of Logan, passed away in his sleep Tuesday at the age of 31.
Bush was a color commentator for WVOW-Sports and was a part of many Wildcat broadcasts whether it be football, basketball or baseball.
Mullins said Bush will be remembered as a wildcat forever and referred to him as a positive guy with nothing, but nice things to say about everyone.
“Nathan was a great guy and one of the voices of the Wildcats who will truly be missed,” Mullins said. “Sports commentators and high school fans could learn a lot from his optimism.”