MAN — The Man High School football team will be making a return to Double-A this fall.
The Hillbillies know the goings will be tough.
It only got tougher as Man has added Class AA powerhouse Bluefield to its schedule.
The Beavers are a late addition to Man’s schedule, which already features a game against another state power, Point Pleasant.
Man is scheduled to host Bluefield and Point Pleasant in back-to-back weeks on October 14 and 21.
Bluefield replaces Class A Sherman on the schedule.
Also added to Man’s slate is a game against Lincoln County, which is dropping from 3A to 2A this season.
Man has dropped Single-A schools Fayetteville and Pocahontas County.
Bluefield went 9-2 last year, beating Weir 32-13 in the first round of the Class AA playoffs before falling 35-22 to Mingo Central in the state quarterfinals.
Man and Bluefield last played each other in the early 2000s.
The Beavers last won a state championship in 2009, downing Wayne 27-7 in the state title game and completing an unbeaten season. Man reached the Wheeling Super Six that same season, losing 27-7 to Weirton Madonna in the Class A state championship game.
Bluefield also won 2A state titles in 2007, 2004, 1997, 1984, 1975, 1967, 1965, 1962 and 1959 and have been state runner-up numerous times.
Man also has Class AA state runner-up finishes in 1977, 1980 and 1984 in a trio of narrow losses under legendary former coach Tootie Carter.
Man ended up being the cutoff team in the WVSSAC’s most recent realignment, which was complete in December.
As several schools dropped from Class AAA to 2A and from Double-A to Single-A, Man High School was the only school in the state to be raised in classification.
The Billies have competed as a Class A school since 2003 but will be moving up to 2A status for the 2016-17 school year.
Both Point Pleasant and Lincoln County are moving down to Class AA ball next year. Both schools applied for membership to the newly expanded Cardinal Conference but both were turned down as the league added Logan, Nitro and Winfield.
While Lincoln County has struggled for years in football since the school was formed after consolidation, Point Pleasant has been a Class AAA and 2A state powerhouse, sporting a 54-7 record the last five years.
The Big Blacks, coached by David Darst, were 12-1 this past fall in Point Pleasant’s last year as a Triple-A school. Point won its first 12 games, including a 10-0 regular season and playoff wins over Musselman (54-14) and Huntington (49-0) before falling to Wheeling Park (35-14) in the Class AAA state semifinals.
Point Pleasant was 10-1 in 2014, 11-1 in 2013 and 8-3 in 2012.
In the Big Blacks’ last season as a Double-A school in 2011, Point beat Chapmanville Regional 33-13 in the Class AA state semifinals and advanced to the Wheeling Super Six before falling to Wayne 34-7 in the 2A state championship game and closing out 13-1.
Man, coached by Harvey Arms, went 8-3 during the 2015 football season, bowing out with a 38-28 defeat at the hands of Tug Valley in the Class A playoffs. It was the second straight year the Panthers had knocked the Billies out of the post-season.
The Billies are slated to open the ‘16 season on Aug. 26 at Logan. It will be the first time Man and Logan have played in the same classification in years. Man is also a former Triple-A school. Logan is dropping to 2A status this fall.
Man then goes to Class A Mount View on Sept. 2 before hosting 2A Westside on Sept. 9 and going to 2A River View on Sept. 16.
After a Sept. 23 open date, the Billies travel to Hamlin to take on Lincoln County on Sept. 30. Then on Oct. 7, Man plays at county rival Chapmanville.
Man follows that up with an Oct. 14 home contest vs. Bluefield. The Billies then host Point Pleasant on Oct. 21, host Class A Tug Valley on Oct. 28 and then travel to Single-A Van on Nov. 4.
The Billies will have to look for a new quarterback as four-year starter and all-state signal-caller John Thomas Keffer will be lost due to graduation. Keffer completed 113-of-191 passes for 1,730 yards with 27 TDs this past fall. He aslo rushed for 223 yards and scored nine TDs.
Man will return running backs Dustin McCoy and Jake Frye and second-leading wide receiver Matt Sanders will also be back. Sanders reeled in 29 passes for 471 yards and eight touchdowns for the Billies last fall.
2016 Man High School
Aug. 26: at Logan, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: Mount View, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9: Westside, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16: at River View, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23: Open Date
Sept. 30: at Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7: at Chapmanville, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14: Bluefield, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21: Point Pleasant, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28: Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4: at Van, 7:30 p.m.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).