MAN — Success breeds interest.
That’s what the Man High School football team is finding out as preseason practices headed into its second week.
Bolstered by last year’s turnaround 9-2 season in which Man ran the table after a 40-20 loss to Class AAA county rival Logan in the 2013 opener and advanced to the Class A playoffs, the Hillbillies have seen an uptick in participation.
Man has been hard at work for nearly two weeks in preparation for its season opener on Aug. 29 at Logan.
Late last week, the pads went on for the first time and contact was allowed on Tuesday.
“We have 53 playes out which is a real good number,” Man 12th-year coach Harvey Arms said. “That’s pretty good for a Single-A school. Last year, we had 40-some players.”
Arms said practices have gone as planned.
“It’s going real well and the kids are working hard,” he said. “Everyone has a good attitude. I think we are making strides every day.”
Arms said he hopes last year’s success bleeds into this season. Man eventually was ousted in the first round of the playoffs at home, 21-16, by Bishop Donahue. It was the first time Man had made it to the post-season since a 12-2 mark and Class A state runner-up finish in 2009.
“It always helps when you have a successful season,” Arms said. “We have a lot of those players coming back. It spurs you on to want to do better this year.”
Man lost 12 seniors to graduation, including: Cayce Mullins, Robert Caudill, Dakota Toth, Tracy Jones, Noah Maynard, Jeremiah Beavers, Thomas Holt, Justin McDaniels, Joey Buchanon, Gage Whitt, Zachary Tackett and Larry Browning.
Tailback Braden Griffin, who ran 103 times for 561 yards and nine touchdowns, will not suit up for the Hillbillies this fall. He’s instead going to concentrate on baseball. He led Man High School to the Class A state championship in June.
Two other key losses on offense were leading receivers Jones (41 catches, 697 yards, 9 TDs) and Mullins (50 catches, 569 yards, 5 TDs.)
Man, however, has junior starting quarterback John Thomas Keffer returning. Keffer has been the Billies’ starter since his freshman year.
Man football over the years has been a grind-it-out, smashmouth kind of team.
But with Keffer, especially last season, the Billies mixed up and diversified its offense.
Last fall, Keffer completed 104-of-185 passes (56.2 percent) for 1,316 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Keffer also ran for 105 yards and scored five touchdowns, including the QB keeper for a score in the playoff game.
Keffer was 15-for-29 passing for 146 yards in last year’s playoff game.
“We will be counting on John in being a leader,” Arms said. “He came in as a freshman as a starter and started for us last year. Still last year, we counted on him in being a leader just as a sophomore. We’re lucky to have a kid who is as knowledgeable about the game as he is. He’s also very competitive.”
Even with the departure of Griffin, Man still has loads of talent in the backfield.
Man has a one-two punch at running back with bruising fullback Neil Mullins and tailback Mikle Scott Rowe.
Mullins led Man’s running back-by-committee ground game last fall with 99 rushes for 583 yards (5.9 ypc.) and six TDs.
Man also returns Christian McCoy (54 tackles, 8 sacks) on defense, as well as Mullins (43 tackles, 4 sacks), Gage Harvey (45 tackles), Rowe (34 tackles) and Tanner Bailey (33 tackles, 1 sack).
Tyler Grimmett, a sophomore who saw action on both sides of the ball last year as a receiver and a defensive back, also figures into Man’s plans heavily this season.
Ross Osborne, a starter in Man’s secondary last season, is also back. Osborne and Grimmett each had two interceptions last year. Grimmett preserved Man’s 26-22 home victory over county rival Chapmanville Regional by intercepting Tigers’ QB Alex Berry at the Billies’ 10-yard line.
Man’s 2014 schedule is exactly the same.
The Billies open Aug. 29 at rival Logan, then play host to 2A Mount View on Sept. 5 in the home opener and Man High School Hall of Fame Game.
Week 3 has the Billies hosting 2A Westside on Sept. 12.
Then in Week 4, Man is set to travel to Bradshaw to take on Class AA River View.
The following week, the Billies are scheduled to host fellow Class A team Fayetteville in the annual Man homecoming game on Sept. 26.
After a bye week on Oct. 3, Man plays at 2A county rival Chapmanville on Oct. 10. The two teams are 7-7 against each other since the county series was resumed in 2000.
The Billies are then scheduled to close out the season with four contests — Oct. 17 at home against Sherman, Oct. 24 at Pocahontas County, Oct. 31 at home against Tug Valley and Nov. 7 at Van. Man beat all four of those teams last season. Only the Tug Valley Panthers gave Man much of a fight in a 24-14 decision at Naugatuck.
The Billies also have the same two preseason scrimmages as they did last year.
Man is set to travel to Class AAA George Washington on Aug. 16 and then hit the road at Midland Trail on Aug. 23.
The GW scrimmage is set for 10 a.m. at George Washington High School’s South Hills Campus football field in Charleston.
The Midland Trail scrimmage is also set for 10 a.m.
— The Logan Banner will preview the Man Hillbillies, as well as the Chapmanville Tigers and the Logan Wildcats Aug. 26, 27 and 28 and also in the annual regional high school football preview edition.
2014 Man High School
Aug. 29: at Logan, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5: Mount View (Hall of Fame Game), 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 12: Westside, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19: at River View, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 26: Fayetteville (Homecoming), 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3: OPEN DATE
Oct. 10: at Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17: Sherman, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24: at Pocahontas County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31: Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7: at Van, 7:30 p.m.
2013 Man High School
Football Schedule (9-2):
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 (Class A playoffs), L 16-21