MAN, W.Va. — The Man and Tug Valley high school football teams are fighting for their playoff survival.
Both are in need of a win as the two teams are set to meet on Friday night at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Class AA Man comes into the game at 4-4, needing a win over the Panthers and next week against Class A Van to stay in the post-season picture.
Single-A Tug Valley is 6-3 and needing a victory over the 2A Hillbillies in order to stay in the hunt. It’s the regular season finale for the Panthers, which are off next week.
The Billies, which were shut out 41-0 at home last week by Class AA No. 3-ranked Point Pleasant, were rated 18th in the state last week and are likely to fall to 24th this week when the new WVSSAC ratings are due out on Tuesday afternoon.
Tug Valley was 17th in the Single-A rankings.
The top 16 teams in each class advance to the playoffs.
The Panthers have won three straight games, including last week’s 50-14 home win over Montcalm. Two weeks ago, Tug Valley won 38-16 at home over Mount View. The Panthers won 30-6 at Valley Fayette on Oct. 8.
Tug opened the season with a 25-20 win at Sherman then won 37-0 at Meadow Bridge before winning 42-20 on Sept. 9 at home over Van.
In Week 4, the Panthers won 46-12 at home over Sheldon Clark (Ky.), then lost 36-16 to Tolsia and 35-12 at Buffalo.
Tug Valley leads the all-time series with Man 4-2.
The two teams have played a spirited rivalry over the last few years.
The Panthers beat Man the last two years in the Class A playoffs, including last year’s 38-28 victory over the Hillbillies at Man. Two years ago, the Panthers won 16-12 over the Billies in a post-season game played at Mingo Central.
Man won last year’s regular season meeting at Naugatuck, taking a 14-12 decision in overtime.
“We’ve had a good series with them,” Man coach Harvey Arms said of the Panthers. “It’s been up and down. It’s been a pretty competitive series.”
Tug Valley is led by running back Dawson Elia and quarterback Jonathan Blankenship. Elia rushed for 156 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns in the win over Mount View a couple of weeks ago. Blankenship ran for 98 yards on 10 carries and had two TDs. Elia also led the Panthers in receiving with three catches for 100 yards and a score.
Blankenship was 6 of 11 passing for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Tug Valley also has running back Noah Lucas, who ran for 64 yards in the Mount View game on 16 carries.
Elia and Lucas play both ways for the Panthers. Elia had 11 tackles and Lucas 10 against the Golden Knights. Blankenship is also a two-way player. He had nine tackles and two interceptions vs. Mount View.
Freshman Parker Brewer had seven tackles and one forced fumble.
In the win over Montcalm, Tug Valley’s Levi Davis had eight carries for 81 yards and a touchdown. Blankenship ran nine times for 79 yards and 2 TDs, while Lucas had 12 totes for 55 yards and a score. Lucas also had two catches for 27 yards.
Blankenship was 4 of 10 passing for 55 yards and one interception.
Lucas led Tug in tackles with 12.
Elia had an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game.
The Panthers scored two touchdowns on defense — a 48-yard interception return by Blankenship and a 39-yard interception return by Kyle Sturgell.
“They are a team with a varied offense,” Arms said of Tug. “They run the ball well and they run the counter plays at you. They can throw it, too, and they are really good on screen passes. We’ll have to be ready for just about anything on offense. On defense, they are big up front and they play a tough physical game. So we’re going to have to be ready for that.”
Man hopes to snap its three-game losing skid. It began three weeks ago with a 40-21 loss to Chapmanville. Then two weeks ago, the Billies fell in a heartbreaking 24-21 loss at home to Bluefield.
The Billies were simply overmatched last week against undefeated Point Pleasant.
The Big Blacks held Man to just 101 yards of total offense while putting up 304 total yards of its own and capitalizing on Man turnovers.
Man played the game without starting quarterback Cameron Simpson, who was injured in the loss to Bluefield two weeks ago.
Freshman Caleb Milton played in place of Simpson, who sustained a hip pointer injury vs. the Beavers. Milton was then injured himself late in the game and third-stringer Josh Vanover saw action under center.
“Cameron was hurt in the last couple of plays the week before (vs. Bluefield),” Arms said. “He didn’t play at all last week. He’s day to day and we won’t know until closer to game time if he will be able to play.”
Milton was 3 of 6 passing for 33 yards last week.
“Our backup quarterback, Milton, banged up his shoulder a bit last week but I think that he will be OK,” Arms said. “I thought that he was playing pretty well especially in that situation, for a freshman to go in and get his first start against a team as tough as Point Pleasant. I thought he was playing really well and then he took two big hits in a row. He’s something for us to look forward to because we think that he’s going to make a really good quarterback in the future.”
Playoffs or not, Man has a chance to close out with a winning season with wins over Tug Valley and Van.
“Sure, that’s what we are looking for,” Arms said. “We’re going to play each week but we sure want to win the next two. We’d like to have a winning season.”
On the season, Simpson is 43 of 85 passing for 478 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Man has balance at running back as freshman Dylan Morris is the Billies’ leading rusher with 74 carries for 255 yards and three TDs on the season. Simpson has 51 totes for 194 yards and seven scores. Freshman Zach Frye has 53 attempts for 187 yards and two scores.
Kyle Browning has 164 yards on 39 carries and four TDs. Seth Osborne has 36 rushes for 130 yards.
Trey Whitt is Man’s leading receiver with 18 catches for 187 yards and a TD. Matt Sanders has 16 grabs for 189 yards on two scores.
Brock Muncy was Man’s leading tackler heading into last week with 59 stops. Tyler Blair had 55 tackles and a sack.
Osborne, DJ Browning, Austin Bragg, Sanders, Whitt, Seth Chapman, Nick Albright and Kayne Brown are other top Billies on the defensive side of the ball.
Brown has two interceptions, including one for a TD, on the season. Sanders also has two picks. Browning has four sacks.
Friday’s game will also be Senior Night for the Billies.
“We’ve got 12 seniors and they will be playing their last home game,” Arms said.
Football Friday night
WHAT: Tug Valley (6-3) at Man (4-4), Man Senior Night
WHEN: Friday night, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: George A. Queen Memorial Field, Man, W.Va.
SURFACE: Field Turf
LAST WEEK: Man lost 41-0 to Point Pleasant, Tug Valley won 50-14 over Montcalm.
LAST YEAR’S MEETINGS: Man beat Tug Valley 14-12 in OT during the regular season. Tug Valley beat Man 38-28 in the Class A playoffs
ALL-TIME SERIES: Tug Valley leads 4-2
Man vs. Tug Valley
(Tug Valley leads 4-2)
2015: Tug Valley 38, Man 28 (Class A state playoffs)
2015: Man 14, Tug Valley 12 (OT)
2014: Tug Valley 16, Man 12 (Class A state playoffs)
2014: Tug Valley 26, Man 20
2013: Man 24, Tug Valley 14
2012: Tug Valley 30, Man 24
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).