MAN — After last week’s surprise loss at home to Pocahontas County the Man High School football team is in bad need of a win.
With homefield advantage at stake for the upcoming playoffs, the Hillbillies need to get back on track with a win this week against Tug Valley (7-2) and next week against Van (7-2).
The Billies are 6-2 following last week’s loss. Man, which has many wins this season over Class AA teams and also Class AAA Logan, was ranked No. 4 last week in the WVSSAC’s Single-A ratings but are sure to tumble a few spots when the new ratings are released on Tuesday afternoon.
The top eight teams in each class receive first-round home games and the Billies would like to nail that down.
Last year, Man had to travel on the road to Mingo Central for a first-round playoff game in which the Hillbillies lost 16-12 to Tug Valley. The Panthers had also beaten the Billies the week before at Man, 26-20, on Halloween Night.
The Billies think they have a score to settle with Tug, which comes into the game at 7-2 following last week’s 48-8 road win at Montcalm.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Tug Valley’s Bob Brewer Stadium at Naugatuck.
Playoff positioning will also be at stake for the winner, which stands to pick up a lot of points in the SSAC’s playoff system.
Man coach Harvey Arms said it’s a big game for his team and the Billies must forget about last week’s dud.
“They are tough and they have been playing tough for two seasons,” Arms said of the Panthers. “They had a great season last year and they’ve kept it going this year. They’ve played well all season long. They’ve had a couple of tough losses to some real good teams. We know that it’s going to be another big week for us. They’ve a tough opponent.”
Counting last year’s two wins, Tug Valley has beaten Man three out of the last four meetings. The only win by the Billies was a 24-14 victory in 2013 at Naugatuck.
Beating the Panthers, however, won’t be easy.
Tug Valley has a high-powered multiple-set offense, led by quarterback Tyler Conley, who had completed 44-of-92 passes (47.8 percent) for 780 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions heading into last week’s game with Montcalm.
Like Man, the Panthers have a running back by committee system in the backfield with Corbin Oliver, Phillip Lucas, Jeremy Dillon, Noah Lucas and Dylan Dotson.
Oliver had 46 carries for 502 yards (10.9 yards per carry) and six touchdowns heading into last week’s game.
Phillip Lucas had 68 rushes for 425 yards and four scores, while Dillon had 47 tries for 327 yards and seven scores.
Dotson had 24 carries for 111 yards and two TDs, while Noah Lucas had 17 rushes for 111 yards. Conley also had 106 yards on 25 carries and a pair of scores. Several other Panthers have also carried the ball.
Arms said Tug Valley’s potent offense will be tough to defend.
“We have to be on our assignments and everyone has be alert,” Arms said. “We have to know what is going on. You have to find Dillon because he does so many different things for them. He’s a very talented athlete. We have to know where he’s at at all times. We have to be ready for the run and the pass.”
Calvin Blankenship is the top Tug Valley receiver. He has 16 catches for 467 yards (29.2 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. Dillon has 13 grabs for 183 yards and four scores, while Oliver has another seven catches for 130 yards and one TD. Phillip Lucas has reeled in eight passes for 110 yards this season.
Dillon has also passed the ball a few times this season as he is 2-for-3 for 117 yards with one TD and one pick.
“We’re going to have to come up with some good pass defense,” Arms said. “Hopefully, we can get the job done. We didn’t do that well at all against the pass last week. We’re going to have to make some adjustments and see if we can improve some things.”
Conley also leads the Panthers’ defense with 52 total tackles after eight games. Noah Lucas has 50 tackles, Dillon 48, Ike Starr 43 and Oliver 37. Jonathan Blankenship has 34 stops.
Phillip Lucas leads Tug Valley in sacks with three. The Panthers have 21 total sacks as a team.
Starr has 11 tackles for loss to lead the team. Dillon has 10 and Phillip Lucas seven.
Jonathan Blankenship has three interceptions. Dillon and Oliver have two each and Calvin Blankenship and Dawson Elia have one apiece.
Dotson also has four forced fumbles and Dillon has two fumble recoveries. Dillon also has two defensive touchdowns — one on a fumble return and the other a pick-six.
Man had a disastrous start in last week’s loss to Pocahontas County as the Warriors returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
It was all down hill from there.
Pocahontas County led 33-8 at the half and rolled.
Man QB John Thomas Keffer was 9-for-21 passing for 69 yards and two touchdowns last week. Dustin McCoy had 68 yards on just eight carries. Jace Duba had 28 yards on seven attempts.
Ross Osborne reeled in seven catches for 56 yards with one TD. Matt Sanders had two grabs for 13 yards and a score.
Man was led in tackles by Tanner Bailey and Christain McCoy with 12 stops each. Tyler Blair added eight, Richie Nelson six and Duba and Tyler Vance had five each.
On the season, Keffer is 78-for-128 passing for 1,137 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Duba has 125 carries for 647 yards and seven scores, while McCoy has 70 rushes for 487 yards and two touchdowns. Frye has another 220 yards and four scores, while Keffer has 175 yards rushing and two TDs.
For Arms and the Billies the playoffs begin now.
“We kind of said the same thing and told them that at the beginning of last week,” Arms said. “Pocahontas County now has seven wins after last week and we have six going into this week. Tug Valley has seven. The last three games for us are like playoff games.”
Field conditions could be an issue on Friday night on Tug Valley’s grass.
The school did some work on its home facility over the summer, raising the field level and laying down new grass, however, the surface has reportedly been quite muddy over the last few weeks.
With rain expected this week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the field might not dry out that well in time for Friday night’s game.
Arms said Man still has no major injuries.
“We’re good,” he said. “We don’t have anybody right now that we think will be out.”
Football Friday night
WHAT: Man (6-2) at Tug Valley (7-2).
WHEN: Friday night, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Bob Brewer Stadium, Tug Valley High School, Naugatuck, W.Va.
SURFACE: Natural grass
LAST WEEK: Man lost 40-14 at home to Pocahontas County … Tug Valley won 48-8 at Montcalm.
INTERNET STREAM: www.manhillbillies.tv
Man vs. Tug Valley Series
Last 10 years (Tug Valley leads 3-1)
2014: Tug Valley 16, Man 12 (Class A state playoffs at Mingo Central)
2014: Tug Valley 26, Man 20
2013: Man 24, Tug Valley 14
2012: Tug Valley 30, Man 24
(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).