MAN – Getting ready for the season-opening Logan game is the goal for the Man High School football team.
The Hillbillies have been hard at work for the upcoming 2015 season and have been getting used to their new surroundings with the new Field Turf at George A. Queen Memorial Field.
The turf was laid down earlier in the summer.
Man was first to get its Field Turf. Chapmanville Regional High School was second and Logan High School started getting their carpet put down on Friday.
Man coach Harvey Arms said his team’s preseason practices have been going smoothly.
“We have 45 out for the team,” he said. “We feel like practices are going pretty good at this point. The new turf is really making it seem different for us. It’s really nice.”
Arms said the school and the players are glad to have the turf.
There won’t be any more issues with muddy field conditions.
“Until you’ve got it you really don’t realize how good it is,” Arms said. “Last week, we had some rain and it just dried up in no time. It made things really good. It’s awesome really.”
Man’s football stadium is now complete.
A few years ago, a new home grand stand was built along with a new locker building and a new concession stand.
It will make for a perfect home playoff venue.
“It really makes our stadium stand out now,” Arms said. “It’s really nice and it really looks good. We hope that we can have a lot of playoff games on it.”
The Hillbillies were scheduled to go to Class AAA George Washington for their first preseason game on Saturday.
Next Friday, Man heads to River View to play in a gridorama.
“We always look at it this way. We go over to GW and they always show us where we need to have a lot of work,” Arms said. “They are a real good football team. Every year they are one of the better Triple-A teams in the state. When you go over there you learn to compete and you know how physical and tough you’ve got to be. Then we’re going to the River View grid. Montcalm and a team from Virginia will also be there. I’m not sure what team that is. We’re going to play each team two quarters.”
Man’s regular season opener is Aug. 28 at home against Logan.
The Billies beat the Wildcats 32-26 in overtime last year on the road in the season opener. Man won it when senior running back Mikle Scott Rowe scored a touchdown in OT.
Man finished with a 6-5 season, falling 16-12 to Tug Valley in the first round of the Class A playoffs in a game which was played at Mingo Central.
The Billies were 6-2 at one point and had hoped to nail down home field advantage for the playoffs but lost at home to Tug Valley and then were upset on the road at Van in the finale when Man was saddled with injuries to several key players.
The playoff loss to Tug Valley ended Man’s season.
The Billies lost only a handful of starters due to graduation, including running backs Neil Mullins (1,004 yards and 5 TD in 2014) and Rowe (471 yards, 10 TDs, 14 catches for 206 yards), tight end Gage Harvey and some linemen.
While a new backfield must step forward, Man is solid at quarterback as four-year starter John Thomas Keffer is back for his senior season.
Keffer was injured in last year’s regular season game against Tug Valley but battled back to start in the playoff contest against the Panthers. Keffer was 65-for-128 passing (50.8 percent) last year for 1,191 yards with 13 touchdowns and three picks.
Wide receiver and safety Tyler Grimmett, however, transferred to Mingo Central. He had 18 catches for 505 yards and nine TDs. Daniel Buchanon, a 6-5 tight end and basketball player, also transfered to Mingo Central.
Plenty of other Billies are back on defense. Lineman Christian McCoy had 71 total tackles last year with six sacks, nine tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup and will lead the Billies again this fall in the trenches.
Tanner Bailey (58 tackles), Bryce Goff (46 tackles, two interceptions), Jace Duba (64 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries), Tyler Blair (46 tackles, one pick), Austin Compton (34 tackles, two sacks) and a host of others are also back.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).