MAN – It’s not just about county bragging rights, starting the new high school football season with a win and getting a trophy.
It’s about the points.
Points, points and more points.
That’s how the Man High School football team sees its annual opener against arch-rival Logan.
The two teams are scheduled to kick off the 2015 prep football season on Friday night at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
It will be a special game for the Hillbillies in that it will be the first Man football game on its new Field Turf.
All three of the football fields in Logan County were carpeted this summer with artificial turf as part of a $2.5 million joint project between the Logan County Commission and the Logan County Board of Education.
There will be a short field dedication before the game.
The Billies haven’t had any game action yet on the turf as Man traveled to George Washington and to River View for their preseason scrimmages.
The Man football team and its fans are excited about it and about Friday’s game as the county rival Logan Wildcats come to town.
Last year was a barnburner as the Billies went to Logan and came away with a thrilling 32-26 overtime win over the Wildcats.
Since Man is a Class A school, the win over the Class AAA Wildcats was huge in the WVSSAC’s playoff point system, which awards six wins for a win over a Single-A team, nine for a victory over a 2A school and 12 points for a win over a Triple-A team.
Man notched 12 points right off the bat last year. It was like winning over two Class A teams on the same night.
The victory helped Man eventually reach the Single-A playoffs. The Hillbillies, however, lost 16-12 at Tug Valley in the opening round and saw its season come to a close at 6-5.
Logan was just 2-8 last year and have a seven-game losing skid heading into Friday’s opener.
Man coach Harvey Arms, entering his 14th year at the helm, said the Logan-Man game is always huge but the extra points on the line makes it especially big for the Billies as last year proved.
“This is one game that we really need to win badly to get Triple-A points in the first game,” Arms said. “It’s a home game for us and with the new turf there’s a lot of excitement around the community. It’s a big game for us.”
This is the final year of the WVSSAC’s current alignment and reclassifications will be done soon. The new realignment won’t take shape until 2016, and, oddly enough, both Logan and Man could be playing in the same classification next school year. Logan could be dropping down to 2A and Man has a chance of moving back up to 2A depending on the cutoff numbers which will be set by the SSAC.
This might be the last chance Man is able to take full advantage of the point system by beating Triple-A Logan again.
Man and Logan appear to be pretty well evenly matched. The Hillbillies are ranked No. 9 in the state in the Class A preseason media poll.
Unranked Logan is led by its tandem of senior running backs Matthew Cox and Devonte Tolliver.
The Billies will look to contain Cox and Tolliver on Friday night and make Logan pass. Logan has a trio of new quarterbacks this season in Daniel Browning, newcomer Alex Toler and Brian Farley. It’s unclear who will start under center for LHS.
“We have to play good defense,” Arms said. “We have to tackle and we have to be consistent in playing our positions and our responsibilities. Tolliver is big and runs hard. The other back Cox is a little bit quicker and is more of a threat on the outside. They have a varied attack. They can throw the ball some. As always, it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
The Billies have an experienced quarterback in senior John Thomas Keffer, a four-year starter, a big, veteran line and plenty of defensive standouts including lineman Christian McCoy and cornerback Ross Osborne.
Keffer was 65-for-128 passing (50.8 percent) last year for 1,191 yards with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. Keffer, a 6-foot, 229-pounder, gives Man the complete package with his leadership, a strong throwing arm, good decision-making and a QB who is capable of tucking it and running for big yards.
Man will look to run with the ball with Jace Duba (5-10, 197), who rushed for 129 yards on 34 carries and scored two touchdowns last year. Jake Frye (5-10, 231), a junior, who ran for 149 yards on 29 carries last fall and had an 83-yard game against Van, also returns at running back.
At wide receiver, Man has Osborne (6-0, 163), who returns. He’s the Billies’ leading returning receiver as he had 16 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown last year. Man will also look to senior wideout Jake Adkins, who gives the Billies a tall target at 6-3, as well as Matt Sanders, Trey Whitt and Gabby Brown.
Man has experience and size on its offensive line, led by senior center and returning starter Grant Gambill, who stands 6-2 and weighs in at 302 pounds.
Tyler Vance (5-11, 247), a senior, also returns to Man’s offensive line. He started some for Man last year.
Starting offensive guard Kayne Brown (5-10, 278), a junior, is also back for the Billies. Senior offensive tackle Richie Nelson (6-2, 204), another starter, also returns.
Man is led on defense by lineman McCoy, who had 71 total tackles last year with six sacks, nine tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
The Billies had two preseason scrimmages at George Washington and at River View against Northwood (Va.).
Arms said Man’s scrimmages were beneficial even though GW took it to the Billies by scoring a bunch of touchdowns to Man’s lone score.
“We went to GW and we learned some things that we need to work on,” Arms said. “They are a pretty talented, big Triple-A team and they play really well. They showed us some things that we need to work on. We came back last week and tried to improve on those and we had some more success in our scrimmage with Northwood, Virginia. We still learned some things there and we still saw that we still had some things we need to work on this week in preparation of getting ready for Friday.”
Arms said the Billies have no major injuries going into the Logan game.
“We’re good,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the new year.”
Man is ranked 10th in Class A in this week’s WVMetroNews Power Index.
— Logan coach Gary Mullins comments on the Logan-Man game in Wednesday’s Logan Banner sports section.
Football Friday Night
WHAT: Logan (0-0) at Class A No. 9 Man (0-0)
WHEN: Friday night, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: George A. Queen Memorial Field, Man
SURFACE: Field Turf
LAST YEAR’S GAME: Man won 32-26 over Logan in overtime on Mikle Scott Rowe’s OT touchdown run
LAST YEAR: Man was 6-5 and lost to Tug Valley in the first round of the Class A playoffs. Logan was 2-8
RADIO: WVOW 101.9 FM, Logan
INTERNET STREAM: www.loganwildcats.tv, www.manhillbillies.tv.
Logan vs. Man Football Series
Since 2000 (Logan leads 11-4):
2014: Man 32, Logan 26 (OT)
2013: Logan 40, Man 20
2012: Logan 33, Man 0
2011: Logan 30, Man 7
2010: Logan 55, Man 18
2009: Man 34, Logan 7
2008: Logan 14, Man 12
2007: Logan 33, Man 14
2006: Man 18, Logan 13
2005: Logan 12, Man 10
2004: Man 22, Logan 18
2003: Logan 18, Man 0
2002: Logan 27, Man 6
2001: Logan 19, Man 0
2000: Logan 49, Man 9
(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).