MAN, W.Va. — With a 3-1 start to the season and six games to go the Man High School football team is right in the playoff race.
The Hillbillies are ranked 14th in the state this week in the Class AA WVSSAC Football Ratings, up one spot from last week.
With the top 16 teams making it to the playoffs, Man is right where it wants to be.
Man seems to have a good opportunity to improve to 4-1 on the season with Friday night’s game at winless Lincoln County (0-4).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the Lions Club Field in Hamlin.
It’s the first ever meeting between the two schools in football. The Billies were off last week.
Man doesn’t want to look past Lincoln County, a week before the Billies hit the road for their huge county clash Oct. 7 at Chapmanville.
“It’s the first time we’ve played,” Man coach Harvey Arms said of LCHS. “We took a little bit of time off last week to heal and rest up a little bit. Then we worked to try to correct some of our own mistakes. It’s a good opportunity for us but we don’t look at it as Lincoln County being 0-4 and think that they aren’t a good football team. They’ve had four tough games on their schedule and all of those teams are ranked.”
After back-to-back 1-9 seasons, only winning six games over the last five grid campaigns and having an 18-84 all-time record, Lincoln County is trying to start a new identity as a Double-A school.
Things haven’t gone so well in the early portion of the 2016 season as Lincoln County is winless after losses to Point Pleasant (44-6), Logan (40-13), Roane County (43-7) and Princeton (31-8).
Lincoln County is coached by Randy Adkins, who took over last season for the Panthers, which have never made the playoffs and have not even been able to enjoy a single winning season.
Eight starters are back this fall on each side of the ball for the Panthers.
Leading the way for the Panthers at quarterback is senior and three-year starter Jake Ashley (6-3, 185).
Senior wide receivers Corey Rusk and Nate Spencer and senior tight end Shane Wells are Ashley’s top targets.
LCHS, however, looks to beat it out with its ground-and-pound running attack.
The Panthers, though, received a blow during the off-season as leading rusher and top scorer Tristan Browning bolted school and transferred to Chapmanville Regional High School.
Juniors Koltyn Beckelheimer and DJ Dirickson have filled the void so far at running back, along with Jacob Taylor and Tanner Walls, a sophomore.
On the offensive line, Lincoln County has three returning starters — Dylan Dunlap (5-11, 180), Trevor Toppings (6-5, 285) and Jake Kirkendoll (6-5, 230).
On the other side of the ball, Dunlap, Kirkendoll, Spencer and Toppings anchor the LCHS defensive line. Dirickson returns at linebacker and in the secondary junior Justin Butcher and Rusk are back at the corners.
“What we’ve seen on tape they’re a pretty good football team,” Arms said of the Panthers. “We think that we’re going to have to be physical and tough. They’re a team that plays a tough game and they like to hit. They play hard. We think that we’re going to have to do the same thing. We’re going to have to be sound on defense. We’re also going to have to move the ball and play well up front.”
Man is led by quarterback Cameron Simpson.
Behind Simpson is Man’s deep running back corps. In recent weeks, freshmen Dylan Morris and Zach Frye have taken the lion’s share of carries. Jake Frye, an experienced back, has battled a shoulder injury.
Man also has a couple of deep threats at wide receiver in Matt Sanders and Trey Whitt.
On defense, Tyler Blair, Brock Muncy, Seth Osborne, Sanders, Kyle Browning, Whitt, Buren Maynor, Kayne Brown, DJ Browning, Morris and others have been key.
Man’s defense has only surrendered 21 points in the last two games.
“We think we’ve improved a lot from our first game until now,” Arms said. “The off week we don’t think set us back any. Sometimes after the off week you don’t come out and play as well. We hope that doesn’t happen. We’ve been pretty pleased with the way things have gone. We’ve had four tough games and two that went to overtime. We think our kids have really rose to the challenge. We feel good about where we are at but we know we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve still got a lot of tough opponents to play.”
Football Friday night
WHAT: Man (3-1) at Lincoln County (0-4).
WHEN: Friday night, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lions Club Field, Hamlin, W.Va.
SURFACE: Natural grass
LAST WEEK: Lincoln County and Man were both idle last week.
LAST YEAR’S MEETING: Did not meet
ALL-TIME SERIES: First meeting between the two schools
2016 Man High School
Football Schedule (3-1):
Aug. 25: at Logan (Coalfield Kickoff Classic), L 13-48
Sept. 2: Mount View (Hall of Fame Game), W 45-44 (3OT)
Sept. 9: Westside, W 27-14
Sept. 16: at River View, W 7-0 (OT)
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@example.com or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).