MAN — Man has been here before.
But its been three years.
The Man High School football team is happy to be back in the post-season and even happier they are to play in the friendly confines of its home field — George A. Queen Memorial Field.
Man (9-1), the No. 5 seed in the Class A field, is scheduled to battle with No. 12 Bishop Donahue (7-3) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in a first-round Class A playoff game.
The Hillbillies come into the contest riding a nine-game winning streak after falling to 3A county rival Logan in the season opener. Man endured three straight losing seasons and are glad to be back in.
The Billies last made it to the post-season in 2009, the year Man marched all the way to Wheeling Island Stadium with the Super Six Class A state championship game against Weirton Madonna.
Man has a long way to go to get to Wheeling again but are pleased to be in the hunt and happy to be home.
Billies’ coach Harvey Arms said he’s glad to be playing at home.
“It’s always nice to play at home, especially when you look at the playoff brackets. Sometimes you have to travel hundreds of miles,” said Arms, who has led Man to the post-season five times. “It’s a lot better to be playing at home instead of making that trip.”
Since Bishop Donahue is the road team the Bishops had the option of playing on Friday night or Saturday afternoon. Since Bishop is a four-hour trip away in the Wheeling area, it chose Saturday. That’s fine with Arms as temperatures are expected to be warm in the mid 60s on Saturday afternoon with partly sunny skies in the Man area. In the last few days it has been getting very cold at night with sub-freezing temps in the low 20s.
“I hope the weather forecast is right. We would like to see a good temperature,” Arms said. “We’ve told the kids that we’re not used to playing on Saturday and it’s been a long time since we’ve played a game on a Saturday at Man but we told them football is football whether it’s a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon. It’s still the same game and you have to do the same things to play and win.”
Bishop Donahue beat Tyler Consolidated 47-28 in last week’s regular season finale, while Man was a 61-6 winner over Van.
The Bishops started the season 3-3 but won four straight by averaging 42.3 points per game behind the precision-passing of Jesse Padlow and the big-play ability of LeVonte Hampton and a talented receiver corps.
The Bishops’ defense is led by defensive lineman Chris Vani, who has recorded 15 sacks on the season.
Bishop Donahue likes to pass the ball. Padlow completed 21-of-31 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Tyler Consolidated. Hampton scored four touchdowns on the night. Brett Moore also had a TD catch.
The Bishops, coached by John Durdines, has a big weapon in QB Padlow.
“Jesse’s been like Jesse’s been — incredible. He spreads it around to so many players,” Durdines told the Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper.
The Bishops won the game last week but paid the price. Two-way standout lineman Chase Padlow left the game with an ankle injury. Hampton, who had nine catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns, was also banged up. Cornerback Josh Miller also sustained a knee injury. The status of the three players is not known for Saturday’s game.
Coach Arms said Bishop Donahue has a quick strike offense led by Jesse Padlow, who finished the season with 20 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
“They like to throw the ball around,” Arms said of the Bishops. “They put it up a lot of times. Their quarterback has some good stats. They have a couple of good, quick receivers. We’ll have to play assignment football and play it well.”
Man’s defense has performed well all season but must rise to the occasion against Bishop. The Billies’ Noah Maynard led the team in tackles during the regular season with 55 and a QB sack.
Christian McCoy had 54 total tackles and eight sacks, while Gage Harvey and Tracy Jones had 45 stops each. Neil Mullins had 43 tackles and three sacks, while Jeremiah Beavers had 34 stops and three sacks.
Mikle Scott Rowe also had 34 tackles. Thomas Holt had 32 tackles and a sack. Tanner Bailey had 33 tackles and a sack, while Robert Caudill finished with 31 tackles and a sack.
Ross Osborne, Jones and freshman Tyler Grimmett each had two interceptions.
Arms praised his team’s defense.
“We’ve played well up front,” he said. “Nobody has really taken the ball and established a real good running game against us. With that said, we’ve also played some pretty good pass defense I think. After early in the first game against Logan we played well in pass defense after the first two or three possessions. Later on in the season we have improved on that as we have worked on our pass coverage. Our players have grown and have learned what their assignments are.”
A Man victory over Bishop Donahue would put the Billies into a second-round matchup against either No. 4 Williamstown (8-2) or 13 Wheeling Central (6-4) next weekend. If Williamstown and Man win the Billies would have to travel to Williamstown on Nov. 22 or 23 for a state quarterfinal matchup. Williamstown beat Man twice in the Class A playoffs in the 2000s. If Wheeling Central wins, the Maroon Knights would be coming to Man.
In the rest of the Class A brackets, No. 1 Weirton Madonna (10-0) is set to host No. 16 Tucker County (6-4) on Friday night in Weirton.
No. 8 Wahama (9-1) hosts No. 9 Clay Battelle (8-1) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Point Pleasant.
In the lower bracket of the Class A field, No. 2 St. Marys (10-0) hosts No. 15 East Hardy (7-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
No. 7 Greenbrier West (9-1) is set to play No. 10 Clarksburg Notre Dame (7-3) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Charmo.
Valley Fayette (10-0), the third-seeded team, is set to open the playoffs on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Charleston’s Laidley Field against No. 14 Magnolia (6-4).
No. 6 Moorefield (9-1) hosts No. 11 Meadow Bridge (8-2) on Friday night.
Arms said the Class A playoff field is very strong. Man’s road to Wheeling seems to be much tougher this year as compared to 2009. Man has been state runner-up four times in its history but has never won a state championship. No other Logan County team has made it as far as the Billies have.
“It’s a tough bracket but I think the whole 16-team field is very tough either way,” Arms said. “We open up with a tough team in Bishop Donahue. If we win that one the second go-round would be either Wheeling Central or Williamstown. Then after that would be Madonna probably. This season, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were upsets. I don’t really know if they would be major upsets because I think this 16-team field is pretty even.”
Man is led on the offensive end by sophomore quarterback John Thomas Keffer, who is 89-for-156 passing this season for 1,170 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has completed 57.1 percent of his passes.
On the ground, Man has a balanced attack. Braden Griffin has 96 rushes for 541 yards (5.6 ypc) and nine TDs. Fullback Neil Mullins has rumbled for 509 yards on 83 carries (6.1 pyc) with six scores. Mikle Scott Rowe has another 293 yards on 71 carries and four touchdowns.
Keffer has also scored four TDs. Reserve Patrick Wiley has nearly 200 yards rushing and a TD.
Keffer has matured in his second season as Man’s starting QB and has established two major targets in wide receivers Tracy Jones and Cayce Mullins. Jones leads the way with 34 catches for 604 yards and nine touchdowns. Mullins has 44 grabs for 534 yards and five scores.
Led by Keffer, Arms said Man’s offense has been good all season. The Billies can grind it out with Griffin and Neil Mullins or can go for the quick strikes to Cayce Mullins or Jones. Either way, the Billies have been explosive.
“Our offense has been about execution,” Arms said. “We’ve carried out our assignments and have done it correctly. John Thomas has thrown the ball really well. Cayce and Tracy have ran good routs and have caught the ball well. We’ve had good protection up front. Our line has done a good job in protecting our quarterback. Then you mix in the running that we’ve been able to do with several different backs that has kept us fresh and we’ve been able to move the ball.”
Neil Mullins has really come on late in the season for Man at running back. At 264 pounds, Mullins is a load and tough to bring down.
“He has been a big plus for us,” Arms said of Mullins. “In tough situations Neil has had some good runs for us. With his size when he gets rolling downhill he’s a load to tackle.”
Arms said Man is pretty much injury-free heading into the game and that is good considering the Billies are about to play their 11th game.
“We’re full go,” he said.
Bishop Donahue comes into the game on a roll having won four straight games. The Bishops won 48-6 at home over Paden City on Oct. 18, then beat Beallsville, Ohio (42-13), Wheeling Central (33-32) and Tyler Consolidated.
Bishop beat Cameron 48-12 in the season opener at home and then won 59-21 at home over River, Ohio, before losing 35-6 on Sept. 13 at Clay-Battelle.
The Bishops then won 26-10 over St. Johns, Ohio, and lost two straight to Clarksburg Notre Dame (37-16) and Weirton Madonna (48-20), the No. 1-ranked Class A team in the state.
BD is 1-3 against Class A West Virginia playoff teams.
Man is 0-1 against playoff teams with the 40-20 loss to Triple-A Logan in the opener.
Arms said he encourages Man football fans to turn out in big numbers for Saturday’s game.
With good weather and mild temperatures expected he said he would like to see George A. Queen Memorial Field filled to capacity.
Man’s fans turned out in droves back in 2009 for the Billies’ three home playoff games against Fayetteville, Parkersburg Catholic and Richwood and Arms said he would like to see it again.
“We’re looking forward to a good game,” Arms said. “We need a big crowd and our normal Man football spirit to show.”
2013 Man High School
Football Schedule (9-1):
Aug. 30: Logan, L 20-40
Sept. 6: at Mount View, W 44-0
Sept. 13: at Westside, W 22-14
Sept. 20: River View (Hall of Fame Game), W 46-8
Sept. 27: OPEN DATE
Oct. 4: at Fayetteville, W 30-25
Oct. 11: Chapmanville (Homecoming), W 26-22
Oct. 18: at Sherman, W 36-6
Oct. 25: Pocahontas County, W 42-0
Nov. 1: at Tug Valley, W 24-14
Nov. 8: Van, W 61-6
Nov. 16: Bishop Donahue, 1:30 p.m.