By Paul Adkins
NAUGATUCK — The Man-Tug Valley football series is turning into quite a rivalry.
In a game with playoff implications written all over it, Class A No. 8-ranked Man High School traveled to Naugatuck on Friday night and beat No. 9-ranked Tug Valley, 14-12, in an overtime thriller.
With the win, the Hillbillies improved to 7-2 on the season ahead of next week’s regular season finale at home against Van (7-2) and received a huge boost in their quest to gain homefield advantage for the upcoming playoffs.
Tug Valley dropped to 7-3 and closed out the regular season.
Since the Panthers are off next Friday night, Tug Valley will have to await their playoff fate.
It was a sweet win for Man, which was foiled twice last season by Tug Valley, including a 16-12 Class A playoff loss to the Panthers at Mingo Central and a 26-20 setback to TVHS at home last year on a rainy Halloween Night.
It would be different this time around.
Tied 6-6 going into overtime, Tug Valley won the coin flip and elected to go on defense.
Man put the pressure on the Panthers right away as senior quarterback John Thomas Keffer rolled out and found Ross Osborne on a 19-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the drive. Keffer then ran in the two-point conversion as the Billies led 14-6.
It turned out to be the game winning score.
Man High School’s Ross Osborne reels in a 19-yard touchdown pass from John Thomas Keffer in overtime to put the Hillbillies up for good. It ended up being the game-winning score. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Needing a score and a two-point conversion to send the game into a second OT, Tug Valley reached pay dirt with a 1-yard TD plunge by Phillip Lucas on a fourth-and-goal play. That put the Panthers to within 14-12.
Tug Valley’s Phillip Lucas scores on a 1-yard TD run to make it 14-12 in overtime. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Man’s defense, however, stopped Lucas short of the goal line on the two-point conversion play as the Billies preserved the big road victory.
The Man defense stops Tug Valley’s Phillip Lucas on a two-point conversion attempt to preserve Friday night’s 14-12 OT win in Naugatuck. (Video by Paul Adkins)
After a scoreless first quarter, Man took advantage of a Tug Valley fumble on a punt as Matt Sanders fell on the ball at the Man 42-yard line.
Seven snaps later, Sanders reeled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Keffer to put the Billies on the board. The two-point conversion failed but Man led 6-0 with 4:43 left until halftime. Sanders would later leave the game after a suffering a hyper-extended leg.
Man’s Matt Sanders jumps and makes a 28-yard TD catch from QB John Thomas Keffer to put the Hillbillies on top 6-0. (Video by Paul Adkins)
That’s the way the game stayed at the intermission.
Man was able to stop Tug Valley twice in the red zone in the first half. On the Panthers’ first drive, TVHS made it all the way to the 4-yard line but QB Tyler Conley was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-goal.
Later on, Tug Valley fumbled the ball away at the Man 4-yard line as Tyler Blair recovered for the Hillbillies.
Man’s Tyler Blair falls on a Panther fumble. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Early in the third quarter, the Panthers were stopped in the red zone again. Tug Valley made it as far as the Man 15-yard line but turned the ball over on downs there after three straight incomplete passes by Conley.
Still down 6-0 in the early part of the fourth quarter, Tug Valley got the ball at the Man 47 after a fumble by the Billies with 11:43 left in the game.
The Panthers drove down and were able to punch in the game-tying touchdown with Conley’s 22-yard screen pass and score by Jeremy Dillon. The two-point conversion pass fell incomplete as the game remained tied 6-6 with 8:27 remaining in the ballgame.
Tug Valley’s Jeremy Dillon catches a 22-yard screen pass from QB Tyler Conley and goes in for a touchdown to tie it 6-6. (Video by Paul Adkins)
The Panthers’ Jeremy Dillon grabs a 15-yard pass to set up a Tug score. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Man was forced to punt the ball away after Tug’s Dylan Dotson sacked Keffer for a 14-yard loss.
Tug Valley was then in business after Conley’s 62-yard pass to Oliver at the Man 15-yard line.
The Panthers looked to go ahead late but TVHS turned the ball over on downs at the 6-yard line after Dotson was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-two play.
Man went three-and-out and had to punt again.
The Panthers had one more chance after Conley found Calvin Blankenship for a 21-yard completion to the Man 19.
Tug Valley’s Calvin Blankenship makes a 21-yard catch. (Video by Paul Adkins)
The Billies, however, stopped Tug Valley inside the red zone once again as Conley’s fourth-and-15 pass at the 20 was intercepted by Nelson at the 4-yard line with 1:17 left in the game.
Man’s Richie Nelson intercepts a pass from Tug Valley QB Tyler Conley just before the end of regulation. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Man then ran two plays after getting flagged twice back to the 1-yard line and Keffer took a knee to run out the clock, sending the game to overtime.
* In other Logan County high school football action on Friday night, Chapmanville lost 54-35 at Wayne and Logan won 35-14 at home over Oak Hill.
— Look for more on the Man-Tug Valley game, including game statistics, coaches comments and photos in Sunday’s Logan Banner print edition.
Tug Valley’s Corbin Oliver runs for 28 yards on a draw play. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Jace Duba bulls up the middle for 10 yards. (Video by Paul Adkins)
The Panthers’ Corbin Oliver gets a 16-yard gainer. (Video by Paul Adkins)
Tug Valley’s Phillip Lucas runs for a gain of 19 yards. (Video by Paul Adkins)