The first two football seasons of the expanded Southeastern Ohio Athletic League have done little, actually nothing, to slow down the Logan Chieftains. Paul Boggs checks in with a preview of the conference from top to bottom.
The first two football seasons of the expanded Southeastern Ohio Athletic League have done little, actually nothing, to slow down the Logan Chieftains.
Despite the additions of Chillicothe, Ironton, Portsmouth and Zanesville two years ago, all the Chieftains have done is defeat them — and the remainder of the SEOAL teams.
This season, the Chieftains are driving for a fifth straight SEOAL championship, but everyone else in the now nine-team league is looking to leapfrog Logan and capture the conference crown.
But, Logan isn’t looking to relinquish its title reign anytime soon.
The Chieftains are the four-time defending champions, as the last three titles have come in outright fashion.
Dating back a decade, the Purple and White own a repeat four-peat, as Logan also won or shared league titles in 1998 thru 2001.
In all, the Chieftains lay claim to 11 league championships in Dale Amyx’s 19 seasons as head coach.
In fact, Logan has not lost a league game in 23 straight tries, dating back to the 2004 season when it fell to Jackson in the league opener and eventually shared the championship with Gallipolis.
The Chiefs went 5-0 in the conference in 2005, and won all seven of their league games in both 2006 and 2007.
While Logan did not face Jackson nor Chillicothe in the SEOAL the last two years, it’s hard to argue with 14 wins against zero setbacks.
And, speaking of 14, Logan returns that many starters from last season’s squad, part of 23 letterwinners overall.
There are seven offensive starters, seven defensive starters and seven two-year starters on this year’s team.
The Chiefs do replace, though, a multitude of talent on both sides of the ball.
Logan graduated seven all-league and Division II all-district players, including quarterback Michael Angle, running back Justin Frye, wide receiver Lucas Wright, fullback Mark Potter, offensive tackle Alex Wallace, defensive back Seth Moritz and linebacker Corey Kissling.
In addition, the schedule was made more interesting with the loss of Portsmouth in the rotation and the additions of Jackson (Oct. 17) and Chillicothe (Oct. 24) for the final games in the regular season.
Both are on the road as well.
The Chiefs have played Chillicothe as the week two non-league opponent since 2003, and the Ironmen return to the Logan schedule for the first time in three campaigns.
This year, Gallipolis is considered a non-league game, as the Chieftains begin league play in week five with back-to-back visits from Ironton (Sept. 19) and Zanesville (Sept. 26).
It is the second straight season in which Ironton will make the long winding journey up Route 93 to Logan.
However, the Fighting Tigers look to be greatly improved from last season’s uncharacteristic 5-5 mark.
Last season marked longtime head coach Bob Lutz’s return to the SEOAL, although Ironton has not won a league championship since the 1984 season — its final in the league until two years ago.
Despite the graduation losses of all-league receiver Marc Carter and lineman Wes Runyon, Ironton returns 15 starters, including all-league first-teamer Chance Freeman.
Quarterback Jon Schweickart and tackle Sam Cramblit — both all-SEOAL Honorable Mention selections — also return as part of all four offensive backfield starters and six of seven starters along the defensive front.
Schweickart is a 1,000-yard passer from a year ago, and will benefit greatly from Fairland transfer Michael Lamb.
Lamb was a first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference and first-team Division IV all-district wingback.
The two-way returnees include Schweickart, Cramblit (tackle), Freeman (halfback/cornerback), Tony Murphy (fullback/nose guard), Major Brice (halfback/cornerback), Lukas Morris (split end/free safety), Jon Monning (tight end/defensive end), Geoff White (center/defensive tackle), Casey Jones (tight end/defensive end) and Keith Wetzel (fullback/linebacker).
The Fighting Tigers’ league road schedule is brutal, though, and includes back-to-back trips to Logan (Sept. 19) and Chillicothe (Sept. 26) followed by a trek to Portsmouth (Oct. 10).
Ironton opens league play by hosting Gallipolis (Sept. 5), as Jackson (Oct. 3) and Warren (Oct. 24) also pay visits to Tanks Memorial Stadium.
Chillicothe, like Ironton, also went 4-3 in the league, and also aims to bounce back from a disappointing season.
The Cavaliers return 18 total starters, including senior quarterback Caleb Knights, a preseason favorite for South Division Player of the Year.
Knights, a three-year starter under center, is a two-time 1,100-yard passer.
This year, his receiving corps is more experienced, returning three top wideouts including senior Jordan Benson.
Benson had team-highs in receptions (28) and yards (326) last season.
Right behind were Alex Grow (25 catches for 323 yards) and Kevin Scott (23 catches for 277 yards).
Up front, Chillicothe returns three offensive starters and four of five defensive linemen.
Anchoring the defense is nose guard Tyler Vest, the Cavaliers’ other first-team all-SEOAL selection besides Knights.
Benson is back for the third straight year in the defensive backfield.
But, like the aforementioned Fighting Tigers, the league road schedule is certainly not easy.
Despite league home games against Ironton (Sept. 26) and Logan (Oct. 24), Chillicothe opens SEOAL play at Zanesville (Sept. 12) and Portsmouth (Sept. 19).
The Cavaliers also return to Jackson (Oct. 10), where the Ironmen upstaged them 42-15 two years ago.
The other two SEOAL “newcomers” — Portsmouth and Zanesville — were hit hard by graduation.
Portsmouth and Zanesville both went 5-2 in the league, but lost a combined 11 all-league players including the SEOAL Players of the Year.
The Trojans graduated six all-leaguers, including South Division POY Shane Porter.
For Zanesville, five Blue Devils departed, including North Division POY Bryan Gaiters.
This season, Portsmouth returns just nine starters and Zanesville seven, including one all-league representative apiece.
Jackson was also impacted by graduation, losing all three of its first-team all-league selections.
The Ironmen do, however, return 16 full-time or part-time starters, including all-league Honorable Mention choices Cody Huff and Ryan Hughes.
Jackson was also impacted by the schedule rotation, getting Portsmouth, Chillicothe, Logan and Zanesville at home, but making three straight road trips to Gallipolis, Marietta and Ironton.
For the first two years of the expanded SEOAL, the Ironmen did not face Logan or Zanesville, but rather the two bottom regulars in Warren and Athens.
This year, Warren and Athens are off the schedule, as the Red and White will host the Chiefs and Blue Devils for the final two regular-season tilts.
The other band of Blue Devils — those from Gallipolis — were gutted by graduation, losing all five all-league performers as well as standout signal-caller Jeff Golden.
This year’s Blue Devils — which return an estimated 11 starters — may benefit from the rotated schedule, getting Jackson, Portsmouth, Zanesville and Marietta at home while avoiding Logan in the league altogether.
Gallia Academy does, though, travel to Ironton (Sept. 5) and Chillicothe (Oct. 3).
Rounding out the league are Marietta and Warren, which return 12 and 13 starters respectively.
The Tigers, which return 2,200-yard and 15-touchdown passer Cody Westbrook, are under the direction of new head coach Andy Schob.
Marietta also benefits by not facing Ironton or Chillicothe, and plays host to Jackson, Logan and Zanesville as part of six straight home bouts.
Warren, meanwhile, is still trying to take steps in the right direction under second-year head coach Jim Pfifer.
The Warriors’ lone league win came against Athens, which left the SEOAL and is now a member of the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division.
Logan may be the SEOAL’s answer to “Title Town,” but the Chieftains’ 14 league championships beginning with the 1987 season has left their fellow league schools facing title droughts.
In addition to Ironton in 1984, Warren last tied for the title in 1995, Jackson shared the championship in 1998 and Marietta claimed a co-championship in 2002.
This is the third year of league competition for Chillicothe, Portsmouth and Zanesville, although Zanesville is leaving the league after the academic year.
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Information from Spencer Waugh of www.loganfootball.com, Bryan Walters of The Gallipolis Daily Tribune and Randy Heath, longtime historian of the SEOAL, was used in this story.