CHAPMANVILLE — It’s almost like Gary Mullins never left.
What’s old is new at Logan High School as Mullins returns to the Wildcats helm after spending the last four seasons away from football.
Monday evening found Mullins stepping back onto the gridiron as the Logan football team participated in the Chapmanville 7-on-7 event at Chapmanville Regional High School’s Tiger Stadium.
The Wildcats hope to find success in the Mullins 2.0 reboot.
In the prior Mullins stint spanning 2004-16, he led the Wildcats to five of the school’s six all-time playoff appearances and won 61 games.
The watershed season of 2013, in which the Wildcats went 7-4, was the last time Logan had a winning season and was able to reach the playoffs.
It’s been a struggle since.
In the four seasons since Mullins’ departure, the Wildcats have gone a combined 9-27 under James Toth and Jimmy Sheppard, including last year’s COVID-disrupted campaign in which the Wildcats were 2-4.
Mullins and the Wildcats hope to end the seven-year string of losing seasons this fall.
“It’s good to be back out here but it seems like 20 years for me,” Mullins joked. “It feels good to get out here and see what we need to work on and what we can do. We’re looking forward to competing and that’s what things like these 7-on-7s are good for because you get to compete.”
Last summer, amid the pandemic, there was no 7-on-7 and no three-week summer practice period.
“We’re installing a new offense and a new defense so it’s extra important for us to be able to have this time to see what’s working and see what we need to work on,” Mullins said. “So we’re looking forward to this season for sure.”
Fortunately for Logan, the Wildcats have a veteran quarterback in senior Jordan Hayes. He threw for 1,169 yards and nine touchdowns last season and earned Class AA All-State honorable mention.
Hayes’ arm was on display Monday.
“He’s definitely going to fit into this system,” Mullins said. “My system relies heavily on the quarterback running and throwing. He’s a great player and we’re just looking to add to his repertoire and see what we can do. We’ve got a lot of skilled players.”
Monday’s event served as the de facto Cardinal Conference 7-on-7 as five of the league’s nine teams — Chapmanville, Logan, Nitro, Poca and Sissonville — were in the field. Winfield, Herbert Hoover, Scott and Wayne were absent.
The outliers were Class A Tug Valley and Class AAA Riverside.
Scott, led by first year-year coach Jeremy Dolin, was a last-minute scratch from the 7-on-7 over the weekend. Dolin takes over for former coach Shane Griffith.
Mullins and Dolin are not the only new coaches in the Cardinal Conference. Nitro and Sissonville also have new mentors as well.
Chad Lovejoy has taken over as coach at Sissonville, replacing Marc Wilson, who left after six seasons and three Class AA playoff berths. Lovejoy has served as the Indians’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons, during which time they averaged more than 32 points per game.
The 41-year-old Lovejoy is a 1998 graduate of Nitro, where he played slot and cornerback on some of the Wildcats’ most successful teams, a stretch that led into their 1998 Class AAA championship team.
“So far so good,” Lovejoy said when asked about the three-week period. “We’ve had good energy. We trying to build on what we’ve already built on. This is my fourth year here.”
Lovejoy said he’s not a huge fan of the 7-on-7s, but after last summer and not having any he was thrilled to make his way down to Chapmanville on Monday with the Indians.
“I’m not a big fan of the 7-on-7s because you can get away with some stuff that you ordinarily can’t get away with in a regular game,” he said. “But just to have a shot at lining up and playing after what we went through last year, I would have died to have been able to play just one 7-on-7 last year. I’m pumped about this.”
Nitro’s new coach is James “Boom” McKinney, a former assistant coach, who is taking over for former coach Zach Davis, who was asked to resign in March.
Davis, who went 8-20 in his three-year stint at Nitro, accepted a coaching job at Buckhanon-Upshur. Davis went 0-7 last season at Nitro.
Nitro returns quarterback/linebacker Trevor Lowe, who threw for 807 yards and four touchdowns last season and also ran for 526 yards and six more scores. On the defensive side, Lowe closed out with 50 total tackles and an interception.
“Things have been going pretty good. We have more out this year than we have the last few years,” McKinney said. “I’m not a big fan of [7-on-7s] because it’s not real football, but the kids like to compete and it gives them something to do.
“We’re putting in a new offense so this will help. We have Trevor back and he’s a stud. Hopefully we can get the ball to our skilled guys this year and open it up a little bit.”
Riverside coach Alex Daughtery said his players like competing in 7-on-7 events.
“Anytime you get to compete in something like this is really good because the kids like it and enjoy it,” Daughtery said. “We will also get to see some things that will help us prepare for the season. It’s a blessing to be able to do. Our players practice so much against each other and it’s nice to get a measuring stick to see where you are at against others. That’s our biggest takeaway from it. We are honored to be here. This is my first time at Chapmanville. Nice facilities here.”
The Secondary School Activities Commission has designated the month of July as the summer three-week practice period, which is normally in June.
This year’s delay was due to the high school baseball season running three weeks later than normal into the last week of June.
The rest of the 2021 calendar year looks to be on schedule with the beginning of preseason practices set to begin on Monday, Aug. 2 and a full 10-game football schedule on the horizon.
Logan is scheduled to open the regular season on Aug. 27 at Man, while Chapmanville hits the road at Sissonville in a Cardinal Conference game.
Poca plays at Nitro to open the season in a league matchup.
Tug Valley opens at Shady Spring, while Riverside travels to Woodrow Wilson.