MAN — There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Man High School football team running the table.
After the big homecoming win a couple of weeks ago over Class AA county rival Chapmanville and with four games left against four Single-A opponents, the Hillbillies are looking to close out the regular season with a 9-1 record and homefield advantage for the playoffs.
The first step to that goal came last week as Class A No. 4-ranked Man went to Sherman and sailed past the Tide 36-6.
Now comes the second step this Friday night at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field as the Billies are scheduled to host Pocahontas County.
Man (6-1) enters the game on a six-game winning streak.
Pocahontas County (3-5) won 48-14 at Tygarts Valley last week.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Man is 0-3 against Pocahontas County the last three years, including a slim 7-6 loss last season and the Billies are looking for paybacks this time around.
The two teams met in a preseason scrimmage at Midland Trail.
“They play the power game,” Man coach Harvey Arms said of the Warriors. “The run the ball a lot more than they throw it. They have some good size and they are a strong, physical team. We scrimmaged them but you don’t really get a whole lot out of that.”
Arms said his team must be focused.
“We have to be focused and ready to play from the start,” Arms said. “We just have to try and get better each week and keep playing hard. We’ve had some good games and we have to keep the string going.”
Man is hoping to win out and finish in the top eight to secure homefield advantage for the playoffs. The WVSSAC’s new rankings are expected to be released Tuesday at 2 p.m.
“That’s where we want to be after Week 11,” Arms said. “We want to be in the top eight and we would love to be in the playoffs and have homefield advantage but we have to take care of business.”
Four years ago in the playoffs, Man got three home playoff games before going to Wheeling and the state finals.
“That was the first time in quite awhile that we were able to host a playoff game,” Arms said. “Our crowd, fans and community were excited about it. It was a big thing for us, especially to get three home games. I’m sure that was the first time we ever had three home playoff games. It was exciting for everybody. You can’t beat that for your home community.”
Pocahontas County started off the season with losses to Tucker County (21-7) and Parkersburg Catholic (28-0) before winning 36-12 on Sept. 13 at home over Pendleton County. The Warriors then lost 18-7 at East Hardy and won 43-25 at home over Richwood before falling 7-0 at Bath County, Va., and 42-7 at Greenbrier West.
The Warriors have a small team with only 31 players on the roster. Only 10 players weigh 200 pounds or more.
Pocahontas County is led by quarterback Wesley Felton. He had a touchdown pass to Andrew Morrison in the Greenbrier West game and can also tuck and run with the ball.
Another key player for the Warriors is fullback Judd Walther, who had a 55-yard touchdown run in the Richwood game. The halfback is Devin Rose, who scored on a TD run against Richwood. He also handles the Warriors’ punting and kicking duties.
Pocahontas County is coached by Doug Burns.
Man hopes to start off fast against Pocahontas County.
Last week at Sherman, the Billies were sluggish in the first half and led just 8-6 at the break. Man then turned up the heat and outscored the Tide 28-0 in the final two quarters of play. Man’s defense held Sherman to minus-38 yards of total offense in the second half.
Jumbo running back Neil Mullins led Man last week as he rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. He played Iron Man as he also led Man on defense with six tackles and two QB sacks.
Mullins helped pick up the slack in the Billies’ backfield. Feature back Braden Griffin sat out with an injured shoulder which was sustained in last week’s 26-22 victory at home over Chapmanville.
Man sophomore quarterback John Thomas Keffer was 13-for-19 passing for 98 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Tracy Jones had four catches for 67 yards and two scores. Cayce Mullins had seven catches for 66 yards and one touchdown. He was 1-for-1 passing with a scoring strike on a gadget play to Jones.
Griffin’s status is still unknown for Friday night’s game. He leads Man’s balanced rushing attack on the season with 67 carries for 359 yards and five touchdowns.
“We don’t know. We’ll have to see as the week goes on,” Arms said. “We don’t know if he will be able to play or not.”
Mullins has 54 rushes for 279 yards and three touchdowns on the season, while Mikle Scott Rowe has ran with the ball 63 times for 239 yards and one score.
“Neil Mullins has really been great for us,” Arms said. “Not only has he been good on offense running the ball, he’s also been key up on the defensive line. He’s made some big plays on both sides of the ball for us last Friday night at a time when we were in a little bit of a lull and we weren’t playing as well as we thought we should.”
Jones has 27 catches on the season for 491 yards and a team-best seven touchdowns. Cayce Mullins has a team-high 33 grabs for 338 yards and four scores.
Keffer is 68-for-119 passing for 848 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Christian McCoy is Man’s leading tackler with 42 total stops and four sacks. Neil Mullins has 40 tackles and three sacks, while Noah Maynard has 36 tackles and one sack. Gage Harvey has 33 tackles, while Jones has 32. Jeremiah Beavers has a total of 27 tackles and three sacks. Rowe has 26 stops.
Jones and Tyler Grimmett lead Man in interceptions with two each.
Man is hoping to win out and finish 9-1, matching its record in 2009 when the Billies marched all the way to Wheeling and the Class A state championship game.
After taking on Pocahontas Counth this week, Man travels to Naugatuck on Nov. 1 to play the Tug Valley Panthers. Tug Valley (3-5), which won at Man last season, scored a 44-38 victory at Van last Friday night. The Panthers are off this week.
The Billies then close out the season on Nov. 8 at home against the Van Bulldogs. Van is 3-4 after the loss to the Panthers and play at Clay-Battelle this Friday night.
Van and Sherman, a pair of Class A Boone County schools, were added to Man’s schedule this season.
Football Series since 2000 (PC leads 3-0):
2012: Pocahontas County 7, Man 6
2011: Pocahontas County 13, Man 7
2010: Pocahontas County 21, Man 0