Logan proved last year it could not only compete with teams in the big, bad Mountain State Athletic Conference, but that it could thrive.
The Wildcats, who swept all three games against MSAC schools in last year's run to an 8-2 record and the No. 4 playoff seed in Class AAA, play their first 2012 opponent from that league tonight when they invade Winfield for a 7:30 kickoff.
Logan opened some eyes around the state last year by beating Hurricane, Huntington and Lincoln County as it qualified for its first home playoff game since 1990.
"We're really excited about football now in Logan,'' said coach Gary Mullins, "and our guys play hard. That's what we'll get whether we're playing Winfield or playing Man. It doesn't make a difference to our guys - the level of play is going to be the same. They're happy to be out there, and football matters this season and last season.''
Mullins realizes that his Wildcats (4-1), ranked No. 13 in AAA, are going to be tested by Winfield (2-3), which isn't that far removed from being a playoff contender. The Generals played toe-to-toe with Huntington for three quarters before losing 21-3, and gave unbeaten Point Pleasant everything it wanted before falling 18-13 last week.
"They play extremely hard,'' Mullins said, "and it seems like they've changed the culture there, like we were doing a couple years ago. They lost a player [running back David Gaydosz transferred to Cabell Midland] and kind of bonded together. It seems to have brought them closer together, and we understand how that works.
"You can't hide on film how hard they play, and [Seth Lewis] will be the best running back we've faced up to this point, as far as an individual runner. [Chris Turner] is as skilled as any wide receiver we've seen. A big part of what they do is try to get it in their hands.''
Last year, Logan downed Winfield 28-10 mainly by rushing for 362 yards. The run game hasn't been as productive for the Wildcats this year, as team leader Worm Street owns just 274 yards through five games.
Mullins said that's due, in part, to the presence of an accomplished quarterback in Chris Marcum (867 yards, seven TDs).
"We're really skilled at wide receiver and quarterback,'' Mullins said, "so we're kind of leaning that way. But we ran the ball more last week and against good triple-A teams, you have to run the football. We'll have to pick up that side of the ball if we want to be successful.
"You can't beat a good team without running it . . . unless you've got J.R. House. Other than him, there's not a guy who's going to throw 40 times a game and win in West Virginia when it starts getting cold. You have to play defense and run the ball is what it comes down to.''
In other games tonight involving Kanawha Valley schools:
South Charleston (2-3) at St. Albans (0-5): Trevond Reese had one of his biggest days a year ago as the Black Eagles downed the Red Dragons 32-22. Reese ran 13 times for 206 yards and two TDs and caught three passes for 41 yards and a third score. SA has allowed less than 42 points just once this season.
Riverside (1-3) at Parkersburg (3-2): The host Big Reds find themselves on the periphery of a playoff berth (tied for 17th in AAA), while the Warriors are trying to earn their first winning season (and postseason spot) since 2007. Parkersburg won last year 37-24 as Riverside committed five turnovers. That gave the Big Reds an 11-5 series lead.
Poca (2-3) at Herbert Hoover (0-5): Two very generous defenses meet in Falling Rock as each team seeks to right its season. The Dots have allowed at least 27 points in four of five starts, and the Huskies are giving up 42.6 points per game. Poca won last year's matchup 18-17, making a goal-line stand with 2:26 left to ice it.
Sissonville (2-2) at Tolsia (2-3): The Indians won a wild shootout with the Rebels last year 41-33, and give up 27.8 points per game this season. Sissonville's top rusher, senior Trent Stowers (365 yards, four TDs) sat out last week's loss to Wayne with an ankle injury. Last year, he ran for 154 yards and two TDs versus Tolsia.
Richwood (2-3) at Buffalo (3-1): Quarterback Levi Jordan, fresh off a record-breaking effort against Gilmer County, heads up the Bison offense. Jordan now owns 4,985 career passing yards and 52 TDs, breaking the former school marks of 4,901 yards and 51 TDs by Nick Harris (2004-07).
Valley (4-0) at Meadow Bridge (5-0): Showdown of Class A's co-No. 2 team (Wildcats) and No. 6 team (Greyhounds). Valley won two meetings last year, 30-14 in regular season and 22-6 in playoffs, by going over 300 yards rushing each time.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or email@example.com.