Civitas News Service
MAN — If you are a Man High School football fan four seasons really stick out. Those seasons are the 1977, 1980, 1984 and 2009 football campaigns.
Those were the seasons the Hillbillies marched all the way to the state championship game, the first three as a Double-A school under former coach Tootie Carter and the last one in the Single-A ranks under current mentor Harvey Arms.
With two more wins, Man has a chance to at least match what the 2009 team did during the regular season.
And that is to go 9-1 and lock up homefield advantage for the playoffs.
Man (7-1), ranked No. 5 in the state last week in the Class A computer ratings, are just two wins away from matching the ‘09 team’s mark.
The Billies have a chance to go 8-1 with a win on Friday night at Class A Tug Valley (3-5), a team that was idle last week.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Tug Valley High School’s Bob Brewer Stadium.
Man is coming off last week’s convincing 42-0 victory at home over Pocahontas County, a team that knocked off the Billies three straight years.
Now, the Billies have a shot at Tug Valley (3-5), a team that defeated Man 30-24 last season.
Man will be looking for payback on Friday night when the two teams are set to clash.
Tug Valley, a team added to Man’s schedule last season, has been an up-and-down team this fall.
The Panthers, coached by Tony Clusky, last played on Oct. 18 at Van and won 44-38 in overtime over the Bulldogs (3-5). Man hosts Class A Van on Nov. 8 in the regular season finale.
Tug Valley opened the season 2-1 with a 20-6 win at home over Sherman, a 32-14 loss at home to Meadow Bridge and an 18-12 victory at 2A Mount View.
The Panthers then lost four straight to Haysi, Va. (50-6), Tolsia (34-14), East Ridge, Ky. (40-28) and Valley Fayette (30-14).
Tug Valley’s football team has tasted some success in recent years. The Panthers were 8-3 and made it to the Class A playoffs in 2012 under Clusky. TVHS was 6-4 in 2011 and 8-3 in 2010 and also reached the playoffs — then as a Double-A school.
The Panthers have been hit or miss over the years, finishing 0-10 in 2005, 8-3 in 2006, 6-4 in 2007, 1-9 in 2008 and 0-10 and 2009.
Man will be the heavy favorite going into Friday night’s game but Billies’ coach Harvey Arms doesn’t want to talk about Las Vegas odds or a point spread. He wants his team to play a complete game of football and take care of business.
“If we can take care of business in these last two we should be in pretty good shape,” Arms said. “Things are going real well for us at the end of the season but as we have been preaching to the kids we have to worry about what we do and we have to try to keep improving and keep getting better. We can’t look at the other team’s records and base our play on that.”
The Billies brought back the “Blue Funk” last week as Man’s defense dominated the game against Pocahontas County. The Billies allowed just 85 yards of total offense and only three first downs while sacking the Warrors’ quarterback five times and forcing six PC fumbles.
Tug Valley is led by senior running back David Runyon who has 354 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore fullback Philip Lucas has 446 yards and three TDs. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Conley has also rushed for three TDs, but has thrown for nine TDs and only three interceptions. Junior Aaron Copey has rushed for a pair of TDs and caught five touchdown passes.
Conley leads the team in tackles with 47, while Chad Hundley has 38, Lucas 31, Thomas Baisden 28 and Justin Baisden 27 tackles.
Tug Valley beat Van a couple of weeks ago in overtime on David Runyon’s 2-yard TD run.
Tanner Bailey led Man last week on the defensive side of the ball with eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Noah Maynard had seven tackles, while Christian McCoy had five stops and three QB sacks. Gage Harvey contributed five tackles and a fumble recovery.
Coach Arms said his team must be able to keep up its tough defense as the Billies head into the playoffs as the competition will be getting much stiffer.
“I thought our defense was outstanding last week,” Arms said. “We played real well up front and controlled the line of scrimmage and didn’t let them throw the ball. We played well all night long.”
While the Billies were stuffing Pocahontas County last week, Man’s offense was churning through the Warrior secondary, led by bruising 264-pound junior running back Neil Mullins, who smashed his way for 110 yards on the ground in 12 tries.
Tailback Braden Griffin came back from a shoulder injury and ran for another 66 yards on 11 carries, while Mikle Scott Rowe tacked on another 33 yards on five carries and a TD.
Man sophomore quarterback John Thomas Keffer was 8-for-18 passing for 95 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.
Coach Arms turned the page in his playbook and used a little trickery against Pocahontas County as the Billies faked a punt late in the second quarter and up man Cayce Mullins fired a 36-yard TD pass to freshman Tyler Grimmett. Mullins had three catches for 44 yards on the night. Tracy Jones had three grabs for 36 yards and caught a tipped pass TD from Keffer.
Man finished the game with 337 yards of total offense with 206 yards rushing. Man had 131 more yards in the air.
Arms said his offensive line has played well all season and has blocked well for the Billies’ running back by committee scheme.
On the season, Keffer is completing 55.5 percent of his passes and is only 57 yards short of 1,000. Keffer has completed 76-for-137 passes for 943 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions for Man.
Arms said Tug Valley has a good team.
“They always play us tough,” he said. “Last year was a good football game. They threw the ball real well. We have to work on our defense this week.”
(WDN Sports Editor Kyle Lovern contributed to this article.)