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Logan shares success

Logan receiver Kyle Dragnich is tackled during the Grizzlies' 3A playoff win over Hurricane in Salt Lake last Thursday.
Logan receiver Kyle Dragnich is tackled during the Grizzlies' 3A playoff win over Hurricane in Salt Lake last Thursday.
Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News

The 2005 football season may forever be known as the season of Riley Nelson.

Entering this Friday's 3A state championship, the Logan quarterback has 77 total touchdowns (50 passing, 27 rushing), far eclipsing the previous state record of 48 he set in 2004.

While Nelson garners most of the recognition, just imagine how fun it is to be a Logan receiver.

In a typical game, Logan's no-huddle offense will line up with five receivers, and during the course of the game Nelson will throw the ball 30 to 40 times.

"That's the beauty of the spread offense. It's real easy to sell," said Logan coach Mike Favero. "Stats aren't important to coaches, but let's be honest, kids enjoy numbers. That's this style of offense. It allows you to get a ton of reps, run a lot of plays and spread the field out."

What makes Logan's offense virtually impossible to stop is Nelson's accuracy. He leads the state with a 67.4 completion percentage, and with one more game remaining this season, he has 3,706 yards.

In a 3A semifinal victory over Hurricane last Thursday, Nelson completed 21-of-28 passes for 412 yards. In one game earlier this year, he set a state record with 30 completions on just 38 attempts.

"He's a one-of-a-kind guy," said Logan receiver Kyle Dragnich. "You know it's going to be good with a guy like Riley. He spreads the ball around pretty well."

In that 59-29 semifinal victory, Nelson threw the ball to six different receivers. His main two targets were Dragnich (seven catches, 119 yards) and Jeff Alley (four catches, 184 yards). Three of Alley's four receptions went for touchdowns.

In other games this year, Nelson's top threats have been Josh Flores, Taylor Palmer and Wes Hyde.

So how does Nelson spread the ball around so well?

"It's just the way the defense plays, and he just makes his reads," said Dragnich. "If you're open, he'll find you."

Dragnich apparently is the receiver who gets open most, because he's become Nelson's top receiving threat this year.

Through 13 games, Dragnich has 67 receptions for 1,071 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Nelson's other four receiving threats are Flores (60 rec., 680 yards, 12 TDs), Alley (29 rec., 708 yards, nine TDs), Palmer (33 rec., 474 yards, eight TDs) and Hyde (46 rec., 581 yards, two TDs).

"We've got seven good receivers, and it's a luxury for me," said Favero. "If you want to double one, we've got another. That's really been one of the keys to our success, as well as our offensive line. Riley rarely gets sacked."

What makes Logan's offense so unique is there's no need for a running back. When Nelson lines up in a shotgun formation, he is both the quarterback and the running back. He's rushed for more than 1,600 yards this year, and only six running backs in the state have a better average than Nelson's 124 yards per game.

Because Nelson is such an effective runner, teams are limited in the number of defenders they can drop back into coverage. Otherwise, he'll just run all over a defense, which he did to Hurricane in the semifinals with 29 carries and 156 yards.

Eventually teams are forced to respect the run, which opens things up for Nelson to pick apart helpless zone and man-to-man defenses.

"You can't take him down running and you can't stop him passing. He's a dual threat," said Dragnich.

Logan's offense wasn't always this fast-paced.

Back in 2000, Logan won the state championship in a traditional two-back offense, with tailback Ryan Bohm being named the 4A MVP as a junior. The following year, Logan's quarterback situation wasn't exactly overflowing with potential, so Favero and his coaching staff took a gamble.

They knew that Bohm could throw the ball pretty well, so they decided to put him in shotgun formation and make him Logan's quarterback. Bohm rushed for 1,700 yards and passed for 2,000 yards that year, and Logan's offense has never been the same since.

"That's how this thing evolved, but it takes great athletes," said Favero.

In 2003, first-team all-stater Ben Macey was the great athlete who led Logan to the 4A title game, and Nelson has been the superstar in charge the past two years.

Heading into Friday's title game against Pine View, Nelson is trying to become the first Logan quarterback in the spread offense to actually bring home a state title.