CLEAR FORK — The Man High School football team, ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A, improved to 3-0 on the season with Friday night’s thrilling 27-24 win at 2A Westside.
Alreaady with wins over Triple-A Logan and 2A Mount View, the Hillbillies should be ranked No. 1 in the state when the WVSSAC ratings are due to be released for the first time this season on Tuesday afternoon.
Man was able to hold off a furious Westside fourth quarter rally in which the Renegades scored 18 points.
Man coach Harvey Arms was pleased with the win despite the Westside comeback.
“We did what were supposed to do to win, but it wasn’t pretty there at the end,” Arms said. “Our defense almost gave it away but they fought and held them on that last drive. But when you get them down you’ve got to bury them.”
Westside fell to 1-2 on the season with the loss.
“They played aggressive and had a blitzing style of defense,” Westside coach Larry Cook Sr. said. “It got us on our heels and made us one dimensional. Kudos to them. They are physical and they’re a good team. They are 3-0 for a reason.”
Hillbillies’ senior quarterback John Thomas Keffer was 16-for-24 passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
The Renegades were led by Larry Cook Jr., the head coach’s son and the Westside quarterback, who was 17-for-27 passing for 247 yards and three TDs.
The Billies appeared to be headed for an easy victory.
After a 1-yard TD plunge by Keffer with 5:18 left in the game, Man led 27-12. Keffer’s kick was good. Ross Osborne helped set up the score with a good kickoff return to the Man 46-yard line.
Westside had cut it to 20-12 with 9:14 to go as Cook tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Frank Sammons.
The Renegades, down 15, then made it interesting at the end.
Westside didn’t quit, marching 60 yards in just five plays, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by Trevor Anderson to pull the Renegades to within 27-18 with 4:15 left in the game.
Osborne then once again gave Man good field position on the ensuing kickoff as he returned it to the Man 45.
The Billies had hoped to run out the clock and preserve the win but Westside’s defense held and forced Man to punt.
Man punter Jake Adkins, who had three huge kicks on the night, was unable to get a handle of the snap and fell on the ball at the 25-yard line of Westside.
The Renegades had a golden opportunity.
On second down, Cook hit Jacob Ellis for a 20-yard touchdown catch. The two-point conversion failed but Westside was within 27-24 with 2:50 left to play in the game.
Man got the ball at its own 42-yard line and were able to move the chains with a first down. The running of Jace Duba then helped milk the clock as Westside was forced to use all three timeouts.
The Renegades would get one more shot as they held Man on downs, getting the ball back at their own 40-yard line with just 15 ticks on the clock.
The Billies’ secondary, which had gotten burned several times, were able to make a big play and bat the football down on a hail mary pass by Cook to preserve the three-point victory.
Man won the coin toss to begin the game and deferred to the second half.
The Billies’ defense stopped the Renegades on their first series forcing a punt.
The Billies were unable to move the football and Man’s punter, Adkins, pinned the Renegades on their own 7-yard line.
Man then got the first turnover of the game as Tanner Bailey recovered a fumble at the 6-yard line but the Billies were unable to cash in as the Renegades sacked Keffer at the 11-yard line on fourth down, taking over on downs.
The Billies got good field position at the Renegades’ 27-yard stripe after Adkins had another huge punt, pinning WHS at its own 5.
Keffer later found Osborne for a 9-yard pass.
Four plays later, as the second quarter got underway, Keffer hooked up with Osborne for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Keffer booted the PAT to give Man the 7-0 advantage with 11:54 to play in the second quarter.
Man got the ball later in the second period at mid-field. Two plays later, Keffer fired a 42-yard TD strike to Matt Sanders. Keffer then kicked the point after to give the Billies a 14-0 lead with 2:05 left in the first half.
The Renegades got the ensuing kickoff at their own 28-yard line.
Then on second down, Westside QB Cook found Josh Morgan for a 61-yard catch-and-run for its first score of the game. The conversion run failed but it was a 14-6 game with 1:25 to play in the second quarter. That would be the score at the intermission.
Man took the opening second half kickoff and marched 55 yards on 11 plays and chewing up nearly half of the third quarter clock. It was capped off on a 2-yard TD run Keffer. The point after pass failed, however, but Man led 20-6 with 6:41 to go in the third quarter. That would also be the score after three periods of play. The drive was set up by a big kickoff return by Osborne to the 45-yard line.
The Hillbillies were then able to hold off Westside for the win.
Duba was the workhorse for Man as he ran with the ball 25 times for 88 yards. Keffer had 27 yards rushing on 10 attempts and two scores. Dustin McCoy had 11 carries for 26 yards. Jake Frye had six tries for 10 yards.
Sanders had six catches for 65 yards and a TD. Osborne had seven grabs for 61 yards and a score.
Bailey led Man’s defense with seven tackles and one pick. Tyler Blair also had seven tackles on the night. Richie Nelson and Nick Collins also led the defense with eight tackles apiece. Gabby Brown, Duba, Tyler Vance and Christain McCoy had four tackles each.
Man returns back home this coming Friday night to take on River View in the annual Man Hall of Fame Game.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field.