MAN — With last week’s gut-wrenching 14-12 overtime win at Tug Valley the Man High School football team might have just saved its home playoff hopes.
Man (7-2) is tied for sixth with Wheeling Central (8-1) in this week’s WVSSAC Class A Rankings and hope to stay in the top eight and nail down a first-round home playoff game. The Hillbillies host No. 14 Van (7-2) this Friday night.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field.
With a win over Van the Billies would most certainly secure homefield advantage for an opening round playoff game.
With a loss, Man will have to wait and see.
Man bounced back from the 40-14 loss at home to Pocahontas County a couple of weeks ago by beating Tug Valley last week in a must-win game by the Hillbillies.
Tied 6-6 at the end of regulation, Man scored the eventual game-winning touchdown as QB John Thomas Keffer found Ross Osborne on a 19-yard strike. Keffer than ran in the two-point conversion to put the Billies up by eight.
Tug Valley scored a touchdown on its OT possession but the Man defense were able to stop the Panthers on a running play on the two-point conversion to seal the victory.
The Panthers dominated the game statistically, outgaining Man 452-150 in yards of total offense but could not convert several drives in the red zone into scores as the Billies were able to stop them when it counted.
Tug Valley had 50 rushing attempts for 245 yards for the game to just 82 yards on the ground on 30 tries for Man. TV also outgained the Billies 207-68 in the air and had a 23-10 edge in first downs.
Keffer was 5-for-15 passing for 68 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.
Jace Duba had 12 carries for 49 yards to lead Man.
Osborne finished with three catches for 29 yards, including the game winner. Jake Adkins also had a leaping catch for 10 yards. Matt Sanders had a TD grab as well before leaving the game with an injured leg.
Both of Keffer’s touchdown passes were right on the money with no chance of interceptions by the Tug defenders.
“Those were good passes and those were big passes,” Man coach Harvey Arms said. “We really needed both of them at the times they came.”
Tyler Blair led the Man defense with 13 total tackles. Christian McCoy had 12, Tanner Bailey nine, Richie Nelson eight and Nick Collins seven. Nelson also had an interception.
Last week’s win was huge for the Billies. Tug Valley beat Man twice last year, including the playoff victory and had defeated the Billies in three out of the last four meetings.
“We were coming off the game against Pocahontas County where we thought that we didn’t play very well,” Arms said. “We had a big game on the road against Tug Valley and we felt like our kids really stepped up and played well. We did just about everything that we had to do to win the ballgame.”
The Billies last had a home post-season game two years ago when Man lost 21-16 to Bishop Donahue.
With the improvements at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field during the off-season with the installation of Field Turf, Man has a perfect playoff venue. Man hopes to get that chance.
“It would be great for us,” Arms said. “It’s always a lot more fun to be able to play in front of your home crowd. Now, with the improvements at the stadium with the Field Turf it’s a great venue. We look forward to the opportunity. We just hope that we can get the job done on Friday and get that homefield advantage.”
On the season, Keffer is 83-for-143 through the air for 1,205 yards with 18 TDs and three interceptions. He now has 50 touchdown passes for his career.
Duba has 696 yards rushing on 137 attempts and seven scores. Dustin McCoy has another 503 yards on the ground and two scores. Jake Frye has 235 yards rushing and four TDs and Keffer has 177 yards and eight scores.
Osborne has 50 catches for 712 yards and 10 TDs through nine games.
Sanders, who suffered a hyperextended knee last week at Tug Valley is questionable for Friday’s Van game.
“We don’t know about him. He’s day to day,” Arms said of Sanders. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
If Man is able to beat the Bulldogs and if everything else shakes out the way it is supposed to the Billies are projected to get the No. 7 seed and a first-round home game against projected No. 10 St. Marys.
Tug Valley would get the No. 12 seed and have to travel to play at projected No. 5 Buffalo in a rematch of the Bison’s 19-0 win over the Panthers earlier in the season at Naugatuck.
The official playoff seeds are expected to be released sometime on either Saturday or Sunday.
In Man’s projected bracket, No. 2 East Hardy would play No. 15 Bishop Donahue.
(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).