With the expansion of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League to 10 schools, and the inclusion of Chillicothe as one of the new four, many observers view the Cavaliers as contending for league championships in several sports.
One of those is football, including this year, as Chillicothe leads the list of squads which will challenge Logan for the SEOAL title.
Last season, Logan, with the benefit of facing four North Division foes whose combined league record was 8-20, posted a perfect 7-0 conference tally en route to winning its second straight outright league championship.
The Chieftains avoided Jackson in the rotation and a loss at Chillicothe was a non-league game, but had impressive victories at both Gallia Academy (week six) and Ironton (week 10) to take the league crown.
The Chiefs claimed their 10th league title under veteran coach Dale Amyx, as seven of those have come in the last decade, including at least a share of the last three. The Chiefs’ 1994 championship, as well as three straight from 1999 to 2001, were won outright.
Under Amyx’s command, the Chiefs have shared a title with Marietta (1991), Jackson (1998) and Gallipolis (2004), and were tri-champs with Jackson and Gallipolis in 1992.
Logan’s 22 league championships are the most in the SEOAL, as three straight crowns have put them in front of Jackson’s 20. Gallipolis, which won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003, are next in line with 16 championships followed by Ironton with 14.
However, that was then and this is now, and last year proved just how wacky and unpredictable the new SEOAL can — and likely will — be.
While the North Division intra-division matchups held true, few — if any — could have called the uprisings between the South Division opponents.
After its non-league win over Logan, Chillicothe came away with huge home triumphs against Gallipolis and Ironton, and even manhandled the newcoming Fighting Tigers.
However, only a week later on Sept. 29, Jackson provided the SEOAL stunner and crushed heavily-favored Chillicothe 42-15.
Entering that affair, the Ironmen were 0-2 in the league after a blowout loss at Ironton and a heartbreaking home loss to Portsmouth. The Trojans finished just 2-5 in the league last year, but upset the Ironmen 21-19.
With only last year as a basis, it’s difficult to predict what will happen this year in the conference.
Although, some things remain the same, such as Logan in the hunt for the championship.
For starters, Logan returns four all-league selections, including running back Justin Frye, last year’s North Division Player of the Year. All-leaguers Mark Potter, Corey Kissling and Lucas Wright all return, too.
And, while Zanesville and Marietta are expected to be improved, the pundits are still predicting them to finish below the Chiefs. Logan faces Zanesville and Marietta back-to-back, including Zanesville on the road on Sept. 28.
The Chiefs’ other plusses include Gallipolis and Ironton at home, Jackson out of the rotation and Chillicothe at home in the non-league game.
The Chiefs and Cavs, as well as the Chiefs and Ironmen, will meet each other in the future as league opponents.
But, with seven league games and 10 teams, there is going to be a couple of odd men out each year. Chillicothe and Logan, since 2003, have faced each other in week two.
And, while Logan hosts Chillicothe this season, the Cavs have difficult road shows at Gallipolis (Sept. 14), Ironton (Sept. 21) and Zanesville (Oct. 26). Zanesville is the season finale while Gallia Academy and Ironton open the league slate for the Cavaliers.
Chillicothe then returns home for back-to-back contests, including a revenge match against Jackson.
The Ironmen have their own revenge bouts, as they travel to Portsmouth in week five while hosting Ironton in the opener and Gallipolis in week eight.
Those two tilts mark two key returns, as Ironton head coach Bob Lutz and Gallipolis senior Jeff Golden make their way back to Alumni Stadium.
As a freshman in 2004, Golden and Gallia Academy upset the host Ironmen 14-13. Golden took over at quarterback for the Blue Devils, and since that October night, has enjoyed a stellar career. He is a two-time all-league selection at Gallipolis.
Meanwhile, the legendary Lutz and his Fighting Tigers were the upset victim to Jackson two years ago — coached by then first-year mentor Shane Wolford.
Lutz did not coach last season, but returns to the sidelines this season in hopes of leading Ironton to its first SEOAL title since 1984. That was its final year of football in the league until last fall.
Beginning in 1972, the Tigers dominated the SEOAL for a decade-and-a-half, winning or sharing every football crown for the next 13 years minus the 1977 campaign, in which they finished second to Logan.
Lutz’s teams went 78-3-1 in the SEOAL, losing only to Logan in 1976 and 1977 and to Gallipolis in 1984. The one tie was with Jackson in 1980, whom the Tigers shared the league crown with that season. The other shared title was with Logan in 1976.
But that was then and this is now, and Lutz returns to the league and returns to Jackson’s Alumni Stadium on Sept. 14. The Tigers also have tough trips to Marietta, Gallipolis and Logan, but do host Chillicothe, Portsmouth and Zanesville.
With the exception of its date at Logan, perhaps Golden and Gallia Academy have the most favorable league schedule of the South Division schools.
The Blue Devils play host to fellow favorites Chillicothe and Ironton, travel the short distances to Portsmouth and Jackson, avoid Zanesville and Marietta in the rotation, and face Warren and Athens to close out the regular season.
Warren and Athens were the bottom two teams in the league, with Warren going 1-6 and Athens 0-7. Warren won over Athens for its only league victory.
Athens, after over 80 years of membership and a charter member of the SEOAL, is leaving the league for the Tri-Valley Conference after this season.
While the SEOAL is split into two divisions, there is only one overall league champion in football. Each team plays every other team in its own division, as well as three teams from the other division.
Indeed, this is now the new SEOAL, where almost anything can — and likely will — happen.
Although, in many minds, if only Logan and Chillicothe were a league game this year.
* * *
Information provided by Randy Heath, longtime historian of the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, and Craig Dunn, of The Logan Daily News, was used in this story.