Gary Mullins and the Logan High School football team likes the role of the underdogs.
They will certainly be that on Friday night as No. 13-ranked Logan (4-1) makes the long trek north to Morgantown take on the No. 9-rated and state powerhouse University High Hawks (5-1).
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at the University High School football field.
Logan observed its bye week last week while University went to Greenrbier East and hammered the Spartans 56-24.
The Hawks’ lone loss this season was a 17-6 setback to Wheeling Park. University has wins over Lewis County (W 28-7), Buckhannon-Upshur (W 63-0), Brooke (W 44-21) and Parkersburg South (W 56-14).
University was an 8-3 Class AAA playoff team last year and lost in the opening round of the post-season to Lewis County. The Hawks have gone 53-19 over the last six seasons. University is ranked No. 6 in the state in this week’s Class AAA West Virginia High School Football Power Index while Logan is 15th.
The Hawks have an array of good skilled position players.
In the win over Parkersburg South a few weeks ago, the Hawks scored on a 72-yard punt return by Jack Armstrong. Tony Richardson is also a key kick returner for University.
The Hawks are also led by running back Jase Neville, who had a 15-yard touchdown run against South.
University’s quarterback is Travis Renner, who connected on a 15-yard TD pass to Armstrong in the win over the Patriots.
Armstrong also had a 27-yard interception return for another score in the game.
Other key University players on offense are R.J. Martin, Cody Smith and Dylan Cole, who also had short TD runs against Parkersburg South.
Renner had 104 yards passing and 83 rushing in the loss to Wheeling Park. Renner fired a 25-yard touchdown pass in the game.
“They are a very good football team all around,” Coach Mullins said. “This is one of those teams that will definitely be in the playoffs. We always say that we want to win a playoff game and these are the kinds of teams that you have to beat if you want to win those playoffs game. They are good at every position and they have a lot of depth. We’re looking forward to getting up there and playing and seeing what we’ve got.”
Logan isn’t going up to Morgantown to just take a moral victory, Mullins said.
“There’s not many times that you have the chance to do something that you will be remembered for the rest of your life,” Mullins said. “University has a big football tradition. Everybody up there and around the state respects them. It’s a game that you pretty much can gain instant respect and show everybody that you can play football. We get a chance to play at a great facility and we get to play at a place that we normally don’t get to play and impress some college coaches that might not normally get a chance to see you play.”
Mullins said he was able to take in last week’s University game at Greenbrier East as the Wildcats were off. Mullins and his staff were able to scout both teams. The Spartans come to Logan to take on the Cats the next week on Oct. 18 in the Logan homecoming game.
“We went to the game and we think that both of those teams are excellent,” Mullins said. “Greenbrier East had a fake punt that University stopped. They had a couple of tunovers and University seemed to capitalize on every mistake. That was a big difference in the game. Both of those teams are tremendous. We have to make sure that we are elevating our game throughout the whole second half of the season as the competition is getting harder and harder.”
University is coached by John Kelley. The Hawks had a player ejected from last week’s game after a minor scrap and will have to sit out against Logan.
“It’s good to be 5-1,” Kelley told WVMetro News after last week’s win over Greenbrier East. “But with this Logan team coming in we can’t make mistakes like we did tonight. We took a backwards step. We had an ejection and he is our holder and plays on our special teams. The kids understand that when you make a mistake it hurts your entire team.”
Logan is coming off the 27-14 win at Chapmanville two weeks ago.
The Wildcats are led by two-way player and senior Brynden “Worm” Street, who has 498 yards rushing on 47 carries on the season and five touchdowns. Street is averaging a hefty 10.6 yards per carry. On defense, Street has 15 tackles and two pass breakups.
Logan freshman quarterback Noah Corbett is 27-for-46 passing for 375 yards with six TDs and two interceptions. He played the entire Chapmanville game. Junior QB Ryan Miller has also seen action under center this season for LHS.
The Wildcats’ top receiver is senior Josh Rein who has 21 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior fullback Tyler Vernatter has 35 carries for 216 yards and five scores. Matt Cox has another 226 yards rushing on 25 attempts (9.0 ypc) and three TDs.
Clayton Marcum and Stephen Dilly are Logan’s leading tacklers with 34 each. Jacob Browning has 33 tackles, while Vernatter has 31 and Tyler Workman and A.J. Grimmett have 26 each. Preston Hepler has 20 stops, while Brett Musick has 19.
Grimmett leads the Cats with four sacks. Cox has two. Workman has five pass breakups, while Marcum has four. Dilley also has two caused fumbles. Workman leads LHS with three interceptions. Musick has two picks on the season.
Since University has FieldTurf there will be no worrying about muddy field conditions.
“They have a beautiful facility,” Mullins said.
Since the trip to Morgantown is more than four hours, Logan is planning on leaving early on Friday morning and making a long day of it. Mullins said the Wildcats hope to be able to make a stop at WVU’s Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium for a walkthrough and will then take the team somewhere for a pregame meal before going cross town to University High.
“There’s a couple of things that we are working on. We’re working with West Virginia University so we can do a walkthrough on their field,” Mullins said. “We’re a bit in limbo as when we are going to be leaving and where we are going to stop and eat. We’re hoping everything will fall in place in the next day or so. We also have quite a few players that have been invited to visit Fairmont State the next day. They will probably stay overnight with their parents because Fairmont plays at home the next day. It’s working out good for us as far as going up there this weekend.”
Having a chance to possibly practice at WVU would be a great honor for the Logan program, Mullins said.
“We got to practice there at WVU in 2007 when we played at Berkeley Springs in the playoffs,” he said. “Talking to the guys that played on that team it is something that they have always remembered. We have done all the paperwork and the director of facilities is good with us, but we just have to wait and see what time they (WVU) are practicing because it is West Virginia’s bye week. We have to make sure that there is a time slot available for us.”
Since Logan’s defense has played so well and WVU’s so poorly maybe Mullins can let the Mountaineers use some of his top defenders for the Mountaineers’ next game vs. Texas Tech.
Last week in Waco, Texas, No. 15-ranked Baylor rolled up a Big 12 record 864 yards of total offense in a 73-42 victory over WVU.
“He (WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen) might be able to use some of ours but I guarantee we could use some of their players,” Mullins joked.
Last year, WVU beat Baylor 70-63.
In two years, the Bears have now scored 136 points on the Mountaineers.
“I wouldn’t want to play Baylor,” Mullins quipped.
Neil Mullins was inadvertedly left out of Tuesday’s Man-Chapmanville football preview. Mullins is second on the team in tackles for Man with 30 total. He also has one sack and 6.5 tackles for loss.