In recent years the final week of the high school football regular season around the area hasn’t presented many competitive matchups. Instead, highly favored teams have played highly unfavored squads and won by 30+ points to close out their slates before entering the playoffs.
That isn’t the case this season.
There are some top-tier contests on Friday’s Week 11 slate, highlighted by Logan County at South Warren, which is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Spartan Stadium.
“It’s good to get a good test against a good program – especially with what they do offensively,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith said. “I think that’ll be good for us because they’re really explosive offensively. They’ve got some really good players and really good athletes over there, so it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
Both teams enter the anticipated tilt with 8-1 records and high-powered offenses. While both sides want to close out their regular seasons with a win before heading into the postseason, the Cougars are still competing for the top seed in Class 4A, District 1 – and a victory over the Spartans would help them earn it.
As Logan County coach Todd Adler would love to record a win Friday and earn the top district seed, he made it clear that having the chance to compete against the defending Class 5A state champion is big enough in itself.
“We are playing for the No. 1 seed in our district, but at the same time, it’s not a do-or-die situation. If you don’t get the one seed, you don’t get the one seed,” Adler said. “The thing that I’m looking most forward to is that it’s a great test for our program and our team right before these playoffs. I told my guys that we couldn’t have handpicked a better team to help prepare us for a playoff atmosphere – whether that’s win or lose.
“If we win, great – that gives us a bunch of confidence. If we happen to lose, then hey, it’s another opportunity that we can learn from some of our mistakes before we go forward these next couple weeks – hopefully five weeks.”
Logan County – which is scoring 42 points and averaging 448 yards per game – has been led by the trio of quarterback Tyler Ezell, wide receiver Anthony “Rooster” Woodard and running back Gary Hardy throughout the regular season.
While Ezell has completed 136-of-225 passes for 2,140 yards and 33 touchdowns compared to just eight interceptions, he’s also rushed for 401 yards and three more scores on 63 carries. Woodard has recorded 696 yards and 14 TDs with 36 receptions, and Hardy has rushed for 900 yards and 10 TDs on 98 attempts.
Last week, in a 46-7 home win over Calloway County, Ezell and Woodard connected for five TD passes. Ezell finished the game with six scores.
“Those guys are very talented,” Adler said. “It’s good to showcase those guys and for them to put the numbers they’re putting up. But there’s a lot of other guys on that team that can do similar things. We’ve been unfortunate and Rooster’s had to miss a couple games for injuries here and there and some teams hadn’t seen him, but if you wanna go over there and double him, we’ve got other guys that can make those plays, too.”
“They’ve had a really good year so far – and hopefully that continues. The biggest thing this time of the year is that hopefully everybody can stay healthy and try to keep pushing forward.”
South Warren – tallying 33 points and 309 yards each outing – has seen multiple players step up throughout the year. With starting quarterback Caden Veltkamp sidelined the past four weeks with an injury, Mason Willingham has served as the Spartans’ starter and thrown for 519 yards and six TDs with seven interceptions.
Alongside Willingham, who’s 3-1 as the starter, running back Kobe Martin has ran for 812 yards and eight TDs, while Luke Burton has six scores with 43 yards. In the receiving category, Jantzen Dunn has five TD catches and 303 yards, while Chidi Afam has four and 176. Avrin Bell (296 yards, three TDs) and Tomi Mustapha (242, 3) have combined for 538 yards and six TDs.
The Spartans are coming off a 36-0 win over Christian County and have won two straight.
“I think we’re making some progress. I really do,” Smith said. “We identified some things that we needed to work on early and it’s making steady progress. We’re not making huge jumps, but week-by-week we’re gaining a little bit here and a little bit there on the things that I thought we needed to improve on offensively and defensively.”