MAN — What a game.
In the end, the “Battle of the Unbeatens” between Chapmanville Regional and Man High School, lived up to all the hype.
If you missed it, you missed a classic.
For nearly three quarters it looked like the Tigers, up three scores, were going to run away with it.
Class AA No. 4-ranked Chapmanville (7-0) was then able to stave off a furious late rally by the Class A No. 1 Man Hillbillies (5-1) as CRHS came away with a 35-28 victory at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field in Man’s annual homecoming game.
Man trailed 28-6 late in the third quarter and looked to be done.
A few Man fans even started to head for the exits.
The Hillbillies battled back, though, and drew even 28-28 with 2:52 left in the game when Gabby Brown snared a tipped pass in the end zone from quarterback John Thomas Keffer which first went off the hands of Trey Whitt.
That only got Man to within two points. Keffer than ran in the two-point conversion to tie it up.
Chapmanville later scored the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score in dramatic fashion.
Facing a third-and-six at the Man 28-yard line the Tigers were in a fix. Because of scoreboard problems the correct time was not showing on the clock. There was about 30 seconds left in the game according to the officials.
Tigers’ quarterback Alex Berry went back to pass, scrambled around and was nearly sacked, which would have taken Chapmanville out of field goal range. Berry, however, somehow broke out of the pack and fired a deep pass to the end zone.
Noah Dingess was wide open and standing in the end zone. Dingess was there all alone and caught the ball for a touchdown with 17 seconds left as the CRHS crowd went wild. Tanner Dillon added the extra point kick and the Tigers led 35-28.
It was the game winner.
The victory secured the county championship for the Tigers for the second straight year.
“I was yelling, ‘Throw it, throw it, throw it!” exclaimed Chapmanville coach George Barker when asked of Berry’s miracle touchdown. “Berry and Noah just found a way to make a play so we could get a win. It was a great effort.”
Chapmanville was looking to get as close to the sticks as possible to get a few extra yards closer for the Tigers’ strong-legged kicker Dillon, who already has a 35-yard game-winning field goal under his belt in Chapmanville’s 38-35 last-second victory on the road at Herbert Hoover earlier in the season.
That was the plan.
The Man defense, however, nearly blew up those plans.
With a sack of Berry, that might have taken Dillon out of field goal range.
Coach George Barker said Dillon is comfortable from about 45 yards out but might have tried one as deep as 50 in a last-ditch try if need be.
With a possible sack and a missed field goal the game could have went to overtime for the second straight year. Chapmanville won last year’s classic — a 26-20 double OT victory at home.
Berry, though, found Noah Dingess for the winning touchdown.
“We were just trying to get the ball to the sticks,” Barker said. “But we found a way to make a play. We were trying to calculate with our kicker Dillon. We would have kicked it from 45 yards out. He’s good from there but 50 would be stretching it. It was an option.”
After the Dingess-to-Berry bomb, Man got the ball back on its own 38 with only 13 seconds left.
After two incomplete passes it was all over.
Coach Barker and the Tigers were thrilled with the win and were happy his team was able to hold on against the fired-up Billies, which had all of the momentum late in the game.
“That was worth the $5 price of admission for the fans wasn’t it?” Barker said. “We made some mistakes to let them back in the game. We had them put away but give them (Man) a lot of credit. They fought back into this game. They tied the game and it looked like it was going to go to overtime and then the clock went out and all of those other factors. It just made a very special situation for an old man.”
Man coach Harvey Arms was gracious in defeat and was pleased his team didn’t quit amid the 22-point third quarter hole.
“There were some great plays and our kids didn’t give up,” Arms said. “We kept hanging in there and kept playing. We just have to get to the place where we aren’t giving up easy scores on those long plays.”
Arms said he was also thinking Chapmanville might try to set up for the game winning field goal but Man’s defense was unable to sack Berry.
“We had three or four people who had hands on him,” he said. “We just couldn’t stop him from throwing it out of there. He got the pass off and it got over our heads. Touchdown.”
Berry was 15-for-23 passing for 214 yards and three touchdown passes for the night. Jacob Dingess had nine receptions for 144 yards and two TDs.
Dillon had 21 carries for 73 yards and one TD to lead the CRHS ground game.
The Tigers drew first blood on the opening drive of the game with backup quarterback Adam Vance’s 62-yard swing pass and touchdown to Jacob Dingess. Dillon kicked the PAT and Chapmanville led 7-0.
Berry sat out the play after getting sacked and shaken up a bit on the previous snap.
Then with 1:46 to go until halftime, Berry tossed a 58-yard bomb to Dylan Smith for a touchdown as the Tigers led 14-0. The PAT by Dillon was good.
Man struck back only four plays later as Keffer got the Billies on the scoreboard with a 47-yard touchdown strike to Ross Osborne. The two-point conversion pass by Keffer was intercepted by Jacob Dingess as the score stayed 14-6 with 45.1 ticks to go until halftime.
Chapmanville widened its lead to 21-6 with Dillon’s 2-yard TD run and point after kick with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
Brown then fumbled on the ensuing kickoff and five plays later the Tigers went in the end zone again with Berry’s 3-yard TD pass to Jacob Dingess with 3:42 left in the third. After the Dillon PAT the Tigers were comfortably ahead and were firmly in control of the game with a 28-6 lead.
Man soon got back into it.
After two Keffer incomplete passes, he hooked up with Matt Sanders on a 56-yard pass to the Chapmanville 1-yard line.
It was the beginning of the momentum switch.
Keffer then plunged into the end zone on the next play. Keffer also ran in the two-point conversion as the Billies cut it to 28-14 with 2:17 remaining in the third.
Then in the fourth, Man’s Richie Nelson fell on a Chapmanville fumble by Dillon at the CRHS 41-yard line.
Five snaps later, Man’s Jace Duba scored on a 4-yard touchdown run, trimming the Tigers’ lead to 28-20 with 8:41 left in the game. Man, however, failed on the two-point conversion play but were only down one score and one two-point conversion.
The Man defense tightened up and held the Tigers to a three-and-out in the next series. After the punt and return Man got it back on the Chapmanville 45-yard line with 6:30 left in the game.
Keffer then almost singlehandedly drove the Hillbillies down the field, running with the ball six times in seven plays but Man was stalled on the 13-yard line and faced a fourth-and-three.
Keffer went back to pass and fired one to the end zone. The pass went off Whitt’s hands and was caught on the tip by Brown for a 13-yard TD with 2:52 left in the game. That put Man to within 28-26. Still needing a two-point conversion to tie it and possibly send the game to overtime, Keffer took the keeper and scored, tying it up at 28.
Chapmanville, though, was able to win it in the closing seconds.
“My old buddy Steve Vance always talked about having magic in a bag and tonight we had some magic in our bags,” Barker said.
Arms said he was glad to see the comeback.
“Our kids gave a valiant effort,” he said. “I can’t fault our kids effort and I can’t fault the way that we played. It was a tough ballgame. Sometimes things things happen and it doesn’t go perfect for you all the time. We worked hard and it would have been very easy for us to quit when we were down 22 points. But they didn’t quit. They kept playing.”
The defenses dominated the game in the first half as both teams had trouble moving the ball.
“The ball wasn’t moved very well at all,” Arms said. “In the second half, we gave them short field positions a couple of times.”
* Another bright spot in Friday’s game was the special teams.
Man punter Jake Adkins boomed several punts on the night for 60, 49 and 50 yards in the first half, helping keep the Chapmanville offense at bay with poor field position. He punted four times for an average of 47.8 yards a kick.
Many of the punts also got favorable rolls on the Man Field Turf.
“That was big for us in the first half when we couldn’t move the ball any at all. His punts were big for us,” Arms said.
Dillon, who also handles the Tigers’ punting chores, had a 48-yard punt in the first quarter. He had four punts for an average of 35 yards per boot.
* The game was one of the three Northside Automotive MetroNews High School Games of the Week.
Both Keffer and Berry were radio guests on the MetroNews High School Sportsline on Thursday.
* Man’s defense went into the game only allowing 130.4 yards per game and just 46 yards rushing per contest. Prior to Friday’s game, Man’s opponents had converted only 7 of 50 third downs.
* Chapmanville leads the series with Man 9-7 since the rivalry was resumed in 2000. The Tigers have won nine out of the last 10 meetings.
* Noah Dingess had two catches for 37 yards including the game-winner. Ethan Thompson had two carries for 17 yards. Smith had two rushes for 19 yards and three catches 66 yards and a TD.
Billy Sheppard had two catches for 29 yards.
Timmy Bigley led the Chapmanville defense with 10 solo tackles and four assists. Ethan Neace had eight solos, three assists, a sack and a fumble recovery. Alex Oxley contributed six solos, four assists and two sacks.
Ricky Combs had six tackles, four assists and a sack.
Austin Butcher had five tackles, three assists and a forced fumble. Andy Bias had five solos and three assists.
Ryan Craddock finished with four solos and four assists for CRHS.
Dillon and Smith each had three tackles and an assist.
Jordan Whitt had two solo tackles and an assist. Blake Dalton had two tackles and a sack.
Philip Oxley had a solo and an assist. Jacob Dingess, William Seigman and Sheppard each had a tackle. Thompson had an interception.
The Tigers were penalized eight times for 55 yards. Man played a very disciplined game and were flagged only five times for just 15 yards.
* Man was held to 210 yards of total offense including 127 on the ground.
Keffer was 8-for-15 passing for 127 yards with two TDs and one pick.
Keffer had 16 rushes for 29 yards. Duba had 10 carries for 28 yards. Dustin McCoy had eight totes for 23 yards. Jake Frye had two carries for three yards.
Osborne had four catches for 48 yards. Sanders had two grabs for 62 yards.
Brown had the 13-yard TD grab and Trey Whitt had one catch for five yards.
* Ashli Kirkland was crowned at halftime as the Man High School homecoming queen.
* Chapmanville hosts Mingo Central (5-1) this coming Friday night in a huge Cardinal Conference game. The Tigers then close out at Tolsia (6-0) and at Wayne (3-3).
Man travels to Sherman this Friday, then host Pocahontas County on Oct. 23, go to Tug Valley on Oct. 30 and close out Nov. 6 vs. Van at home.
Both the Tigers and Billies would like to win out and host first-round playoff games.
A possible unbeaten season is still on the line for CRHS.
Man hopes to close out 9-1.
“It’s on to Sherman for us,” Arms said. “What we do is up to us. We’ve still got a good opportunity but we’ve got four tough games left and there’s plenty of points on the schedule. If we can go out and play it’s up to us to take care of that. We just have to keep working hard and getting better each week.”
TEAM CONF. ALL PF PA
Chapmanville 4-0 7-0 288 131
Tolsia 4-0 6-0 226 102
Mingo Central 3-1 5-1 308 115
Herbert Hoover 3-2 4-2 237 150
Wayne 2-2 3-3 227 208
Scott 1-3 2-4 162 272
Sissonville 1-5 1-5 94 176
Poca 0-4 0-7 118 365
Friday, October 9 results:
Chapmanville 35, Man 28
Mingo Central 71, Poca 16
Wayne 58, Scott 12
Herbert Hoover 37, Sissonville 20
Tolsia — BYE WEEK
Friday, October 16 games:
Mingo Central at Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Tolsia at Scott, 7:30 p.m.
Wayne at Herbert Hoover, 7:30 p.m.
Clay County at Sissonville, 7:30 p.m.
Poca — BYE WEEK