By Brad Morris
Blayton Reid usually doesn’t keep track of how many yards he has in a game.
But the Logan Elm senior decided to make an exception to that rule late last month.
“My guys on the line, like Gavin Griffey, kept letting me know how many yards that I had and when they told me that I had 260 yards then I realized that we could get it,” said Reid, referring to breaking the program’s single-game rushing record when he ran for 301 yards in a 35-14 win over Fairfield Union on Sept. 23. “I kept running the ball until we had the record.
“I know people look at records as individual accomplishments, but that’s not an individual accomplishment. Our offensive line blocked for me and made that possible, and that’s why I say it’s our record.”
The resurgence that the Braves have experienced on the football field this fall can be traced back to the trenches and an offensive line that has paved the way to an 8-2 season and a first-round home playoff game on Friday against Cambridge (7-3).
“When people look at the differences between going 3-7 last season to going 8-2 this season, that’s where a lot of the credit should go,” Logan Elm coach Terry Holbert said. “It was a struggle for us last season on the line, because we had a different starting lineup every week of the season with injuries and that made it hard to get any type of consistency up front.”
The Braves are scoring 29.6 points per game this season after averaging just 16.9 points a season ago. Logan Elm is also averaging 346.1 yards per game this season after producing just a 232.2-yard average in 2021.
“We have a lot more chemistry than we did last season, and we are also communicating a lot better,” junior lineman Ian Roese said. “When we get on each other about something, we do it the right way to correct something that needs to be corrected. We are there to help each other and support each other.”
Holbert credited the offseason workout regimen and the senior leadership on the line for helping to make a big difference this season for the Braves.
“Those guys had an unbelievable commitment in the weight room and really got after it to gain a tremendous amount of strength,” he said. “We don’t have a big offensive line, but what we have are very strong and athletic guys that can create matchup issues. We have three-to-four guys on that line who can squat 500 pounds, which is pretty impressive when they weigh from 200 to maybe 225 pounds.
“Our other advantage is our senior leadership with Gavin Griffey, R.J. Weber and Jake West. They do an outstanding job of leading that unit and are like having three coaches on the field. If the defense does something different with a front that we didn’t expect, they have the veteran presence to make the change on the field so our line can block it properly.”
The Braves opened the season with a tough 25-13 loss to Zane Trace, which went on to post an undefeated regular-season and win the Scioto Valley Conference championship. Logan Elm was held to just 34 rushing yards in the loss.
“We worked really hard during the summer and felt like we pushed ourselves to the limit to get ready for the season,” Griffey said. “The Zane Trace game showed us that we had to step it up physically and be more fundamental with how we approached our jobs, so we could take advantage of all that preparation we went through.”
The Braves responded by wheeling off six consecutive wins and outscored their opposition 188-45.
Logan Elm defeated Miami Trace 35-10 in Week 3, earning its first win over the Panthers since 2017. The Braves then opened up Mid-State League Buckeye Division play the following week with a commanding 28-7 victory over Hamilton Township. It was the first win for the Braves over the Rangers since 2011 and the first victory along Rathmell Road since way back in 2008.
“That loss to Zane Trace really left a bad taste in our mouths and we wanted to show people that we were going to be a different team this season,” Griffey said. “Getting our first win of the season against Westfall was nice but beating Miami Trace and Hamilton Township in back-to-back weeks started to show us what we were capable of as a team and really boosted our confidence to another level.
“We were having a lot of fun and we wanted to work hard to make sure that continued.”
Reid ran for 902 yards during the six-game winning streak and scored 14 touchdowns, as the Braves prominently featured their four-year starting tailback.
“Blayton is amazing to block for,” Griffey said. “All we have to do is get in front of our guy, latch on and Blayton is going to make the cut he needs to make and just continue to go.”
Reid, who has rushed for 1,326 yards and 18 touchdowns entering the postseason, credited his performance to better communication with the offensive line.
“The game has slowed down a little more for me this season, but I think one of the big things has been learning our blocking schemes and communicating with my offensive line more than I did in my first three years in high school,” he said. “I know how they block things changes from defense to defense and if we have someone crashing hard, I might have to bounce it back or take it up the middle.
“Our line does a great job of getting past the first line and getting out to the linebackers. When I’ve had some of my longer runs this season, all I have to do is get around a linebacker or a safety and get out into the open field. It takes vision, making the right cut and being strong with the football, but a lot of the work goes back to my line opening up holes so I can do that.”
Reid complimented the line for its accountability and drive to be better.
“I don’t have to push these guys very much, because they are hard on themselves and very accountable,” he said. “When they are helping me up after a play and they felt like they made a mistake, they will say that they will fix it for the next time. They push themselves to be a very good offensive line.”
The Braves had their six-game win streak snapped by five-time defending Mid-State League Buckeye Division champion Bloom-Carroll (9-1). The Bulldogs, who have outscored their league counterparts 858-154 over a 22-game winning streak, led the Braves just 27-20 entering the fourth quarter before finally pulling away for a 41-20 win.
Logan Elm bounced back to rout Amanda-Clearcreek 41-7 and claimed its first Pickaway County championship since 2014 with a 34-17 win over Teays Valley. It was also the first time the Braves had defeated the Vikings since 2014.
“We’ve done a lot of things this season that haven’t been done around here for a while,” Griffey said. “Winning the county was nice and getting another opportunity to play here to open the playoffs is going to be a great experience for our senior class and the rest of our guys.”
The Braves have transformed into a balance offense over the course of the season behind the solid play of first-year starting quarterback Aaron Walters and playmakers on the perimeters like Braylen Baker. Logan Elm enters the postseason averaging 178.9 yards running and 167.2 yards passing.
“Nothing changes with our mentality on the line,” Griffey said. “We have good blocking schemes for the run, the pass or whatever the team needs from us. We have a winning mentality, and we want to be successful.”
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