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LOGAN — The Logan High School football team took a step back last season, going from 4-6 to 1-9.

The Wildcats fielded a very young team, however, and experienced many growing pains along the way.

Looking ahead to the 2020 fall season, Logan hopes to improve on last year’s showing as the Wildcats are a year older and a year stronger.

With all 11 starters back on offense and eight on defense, that bodes well for Logan going into the season.

Logan’s youthful offense took off in the second part of 2019 and third-year coach Jimmy Sheppard hopes that can carry over to this fall.

“We can definitely build on our offense. It didn’t start clicking until about Game 4,” Sheppard said. “After that we really found a way to put points on the board. Being a year older really helps a lot. We had two freshman receivers that really came on late in the year in Aiden Slack and Dawson Maynard. Cameron Hensley was just a sophomore but he got a lot of playing time last year and also as a freshman. The only receiver that we had returning was Corey Townsend. That was also Jordan Hayes’ first year as a starter.”

But can Logan’s defense stop anyone?

Last year’s run defense was porous as many of the Wildcats’ opponents simply took to to Logan with the running game.

Logan ended up surrendering 50 or more points in six of its nine losses. Winfield scored 70 in a 70-34 win over the Cats, while Cardinal Conference champion Poca rolled up 68 in a 60-point win.

The defense did pitch a shutout in a 35-0 homecoming win over Scott, the lone win by the Wildcats all season.

The Wildcats look to shore up its defense. A year older, some shifts on the defensive line, a new defensive alignment and with top athletes coming back in its secondary, Logan looks to be much better.

“We definitely should be able to improve on our defense and despite this coronavirus our players have got into the weight room and are bigger and stronger,” Sheppard said. “Some of that just comes with age.”

Logan is not scheduled to open the season until September 11 in a non-conference game at Mingo Central. The home opener is the following week on September 18 against the Poca Dots.

Logan’s traditional opener on August 27 against Man was canceled by the WVSSAC, which elected to delay the season one week due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Wildcats were then slated to play on September 4 against Sissonville but that game was also canceled as Logan County was in the red in the color-coded maps as it was deemed a virus “hot spot.”

At quarterback, Logan will look to returning starter Jordan Hayes.

Hayes, a junior, completed 147 of 245 passes (60 percent) last season for 2,090 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

Hayes, a Second-Team All-Cardinal Conference selection returns for Logan this season and looks to have another successful grid campaign.

Hayes, however, is coming off of an injury and is expected to miss the first couple of games of the 2020 season.

“He’s not being cleared to play the first couple of weeks,” Sheppard said. “He had surgery on his arm. He will be out up until about Week 3. He had a great season last year and I’m hoping that he can build off of that. He got a lot better as the season progressed. He moves pretty good. He got a lot better at it especially as the season went on.”

Sheppard said Hayes will most likely miss a couple of games.

“Jordan is going to be out with an elbow injury for awhile,” he said. “We’re not exactly sure when we are going to get him back. Last year, if you saw him at the beginning of the season as compared to the end of the season it’s hard to describe how much better than he got through the course of the season. We hope that this carries over into this year and he continues to grow as a quarterback. He’s a good leader out there.”

Kolton Goldie, a junior and a running back last year, is being tabbed to be Hayes’ replacement in the first couple of weeks of the season.

Receivers Aiden Slack and Corey Townsend can also play at QB if need be.

Slack was 7 of 14 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown last season. Townsend, primarily a wide receiver, was 2 of 3 in the air for 41 yards and a score.

“In the off-season we had some question marks at quarterback knowing Jordan was going to be out a couple of games,” Sheppard said. “So we tried some different people. We knew that Aiden Slack can play quarterback. Corey Townsend has played some at quarterback. But to be honest, we didn’t want to move any of those guys from wide receiver to quarterback. You can’t throw the ball to yourself. So we tried some of the guys and Kolton seemed like the obvious choice because of his work ethic and his ability to run with the ball. In our scheme the quarterback has to be able to run. Both Aiden and Corey are both capable, too, to move from wide receiver to quarterback if we absolutely have to.”

Logan is likely to run out of the spread formation with four wide receivers or even five in an empty backfield set.

“We will stay in the spread formation most of the time,” Sheppard said. “A lot of the times we won’t have anybody in the backfield over than the quarterback.”

At running back, Logan returns Goldie, who will play there when not under center. He rushed for 78 yards and a TD last season. Slack also saw time in the backfield last season with 49 rushes for 240 yards and two scores. Dawson Maynard, who also plays wide receiver, ran 16 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns last year.

If Logan wants to go to a bigger package in the backfield the Cats will probably turn to Caden Dotson, Noah McNeely or Brayden Chambers.

“He’s a bigger, stronger back,” Sheppard said of Dotson. “He’s a fullback type. Noah will play mostly defense for us but when we go to a more heavy set when we are not in the spread we can put him in the backfield. He got some carries for us last year. Brayden is a sophomore and did a good job on the JV last year and we’ll take a look at him at running back this year.”

Logan’s receiving corps is deep and talented.

Logan was especially good last season on the offensive side of the ball a year ago with its young skilled position players and had one of the Cardinal Conference’s top passing offenses.

All of Logan’s top targets are back and that bodes well for the prolific Wildcat passing attack.

Wide receivers Townsend, Maynard and Cameron Hensley all return in Logan’s receiving corps.

Townsend, a First-Team All-Cardinal Conference pick last year by the coaches, was Logan’s top receiver as he surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau. He closed out with 57 catches for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in the Wildcats’ often pass-happy scheme. He’s a senior this year.

Hensley snared another nine passes for 226 yards and a touchdown.

Also coming back is sophomore wide receiver Slack, a First-Team All-Cardinal Conference pick from a year ago.

Slack saw action at wide receiver, running back and quarterback in 2019. He reeled in 47 passes for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“All of our receivers are really fast and good route runners,” Sheppard said. “They all have good hands too. They are really smart players. We definitely think we have a good group with Slack and Corey leading the way. They both were All-State Honorable Mention last year. We also have Dawson Maynard back. He’s going to play some at running back. We also have Cameron Hensley and he might play some at running back for us as well. He’s big and strong.”

Newcomer Carson Kirk will add depth to the Logan receiving corps.

“Adding Carson Kirk is going to be big,” Sheppard said. “He worked hard in the three-week period and he’s working hard every single day. We think that he’s going to be a huge contributor to our team on both sides of the ball.”

Tristan Burgess, Chance Maynard and Hunter White return as starters on the offensive line.

Brennan Goff will also be a key lineman, Sheppard said.

“He’s a big strong kid,” he said of Goff, who is former Logan athlete Braxton Goff’s younger brother. “One thing that we are trying to do on the offensive line this year is have more athletic bodies out there to match our offense. Last year, we were in the position where we were using a lot of heavy offensive linemen and running the spread scheme that made it more difficult for us. This year, we are trying to put more athletes on the offensive line. We lost two offensive tackles last year but everyone we bring back has started at some point last year. So we more or less have our entire offense back.”

Noah McNeely, a converted H-back, is also projected to see time on the O-line.

“He didn’t play on the line last year. He was an H-back,” Sheppard said. “He’s going to play some at guard.”

McNeely and White are two of Logan’s top players coming back on the defensive line.

“Noah McNeely will flip over and play on the defensive line,” Sheppard said. “Hunter White started for us last year at guard on offense but this year we are going to try to get him more on defense playing the nose guard position.”

Dotson is also being pushed up to the D-line from last year’s linebacker post. He logged 52 tackles last season.

“Caden Dotson played inside linebacker for us last year but this year he’s going to move down to the defensive line,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said Logan must improve defensively this fall.

“We couldn’t stop anyone running right at us last year so that’s been one of our focuses during the off-season — improving our run defense,” he said. “We want to be more physical.”

Chance Maynard, a junior and returning starter, comes back this season at linebacker. Justin Collins, who sat out last year, is also expected to contribute.

“We get Justin Collins back this year. He sat out last year,” Sheppard said. “He’ll be a big part of what we do. He will be the Mike linebacker in the middle. It’s going to be great having him in the middle of our defense.”

Mikah Adams, another linebacker who sat out last year due to injury, is back.

“Mikah broke his collar bone in a 7 on 7 scrimmage and had to sit out,” Sheppard said.

Logan’s defensive secondary is one of the strengths of the team.

And to further enhance that strength, the Wildcats are shifting from a 3-4 to a 3-3-5 defense with five players in the secondary.

“Last year we were more of a 3-4 team. This year, we are going to be a 3-3-5, just because we have so many defensive backs,” Sheppard said. “We feel that this is the best defense that we can put out there to get our best 11 guys on the field. We return a lot of people that have had playing time.”

Slack and Goldie, a third year starter in the defensive backfield, are back this fall. Slack is the leading returning tackler from last year’s team as he had 70 stops a year ago. Goldie had 69 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.

Hensley, another three-year starter, also returns.

Tyler Fenwick, who transferred to Logan last year from Florida, is back too, as well as Townsend and Maynard.

“Both Goldie and Hensley have started since they were freshmen,” Sheppard said. “Last year, we ended up moving Kolton to safety because we had the addition of Tyler Fenwick who moved here from Florida. We have all of our players back in our defensive secondary from last year. They did a good job last year in coverage. The problem that we had last year was that we couldn’t stop anyone from running the ball right at us.”

On the special teams, Slack is expected to handle all of the punting, place kicking and kickoff duties.

“Slack is back as both the punter and the kicker,” Sheppard said. “He’s one of the more talented kickers and punters that we’ve ever had. Last year, he had 12 touch backs on kickoffs and we’ve never had that here. He did a great job last year and he does a great job overall. He had talked about going to some kicking camps this year but with the coronavirus that kind of knocked him out of doing that.”

Logan’s schedule will be different this season and the Cats are slated to play just nine games — five at home and four away.

A home date with Class A Tug Valley on October 16 replaces the canceled Sissonville game. The Wildcats and the Panthers have only played each other over the years in preseason scrimmages but never have met during the regular season.

“We added Tug Valley to replace the Man game,” Sheppard said. “We still play Mingo so it really does not feel any different for us. They are not in the conference now but they are good every year. Sissonville will be solid but we aren’t getting to play them this year. They have their top running back returning and their quarterback.”

Logan has a new football grandstand and press box this year.

The old bleachers and press box at Willis-Nisbet Stadium were deemed structurally unsafe last season and only the bottom half of the seats were used.

Demolition on the bleachers began on February 24 and was complete before the virus outbreak. The new bleachers were then built.

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com