MAN, W.Va. — Friday night was more or less the beginning for the Tug Valley High School football team.
It was the end of the line for the Man Hillbillies.
Class A No. 15-ranked Tug Valley nailed down a playoff berth with Friday’s 12-6 win at Double-A Man, which dropped to 4-5 and saw its playoff hopes come to a halt.
Tug Valley, which had beaten former Single-A team Man the last two years in the playoffs, improved to 5-2 all-time against the Hillbillies, which had their Senior Night at George A. Queen Memorial Field spoiled.
The Panthers, which advanced to the state semifinals a couple of years ago, are happy to make it to the playoffs for the third straight season.
“Yes, this did it,” Tug Valley coach Tony Clusky said. “This was one of our goals. We wanted to try to get in and be as high a seed as we can. We’re 7-3 and it’s over and done. We would have liked to have had a little bit better record going in.”
Tug Valley will observe a bye week this coming Friday night in Week 11 and will await this week’s rankings and the post-season seedings in two weeks.
“Yeah, we need a bye week because we’re banged up,” Clusky said. “We’ve got a lot of things that we can work on. We’ll just see how the rankings will fall. That’s all that we can do.”
Tug Valley led Man 6-0 and held a 12-0 advantage before Man was able to close it to 12-6 at the 5:33 mark of the third quarter with Dustin McCoy’s 12-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers then held off the Hillbillies to notch the road win.
Man didn’t help itself at all as the Billies were penalized 15 times for 157 yards. The Panthers were a bit more disciplined with seven flags for 70 yards.
“It’s a tough place to play. Man had a lot of penalties in the first half and we had too many in the second half,” Clusky said. “We also laid it on the ground a couple of times. I thought we should have scored a couple more touchdowns. We just can’t do that come playoff time.”
Man had its chances to tie it up or possibly go ahead in the final moments of the game with a touchdown and a successful extra point kick or conversion.
The Billies drove the ball to the Tug Valley 29 but a fourth-and-13 pass from Cameron Simpson fell incomplete.
The Panthers turned the ball over on downs at the Man 32 but two plays later Simpson was intercepted by Dawson Elia at the 40.
Man got the ball back with 2:03 left in the game as the Panthers fumbled on a second-and-goal at the 3 as Daniel Browning fell on the pigskin at the 1-yard line. It appeared as if the ground caused the fumble but Man was awarded the ball anyway.
The Panthers were hoping to put the Billies away with the clinching touchdown but Man instead had new life.
Simpson was able to give Man a first down at the Tug 47 with 5.5 seconds left after Browning was able to haul down a 28-yard pass.
Simpson then went back for a Hail Mary pass but the Panthers were able to bat it down to preserve the win.
Man outgained Tug Valley 260-195 in yards of total offense.
The Panthers had 41 rushes for 185 yards, while the Billies ran with the ball 33 times for 198 yards.
Simpson was 4 of 11 passing for 62 yards. Tug Valley quarterback Jonathan Blankenship was 2 of 4 for 10 yards.
Blankenship, a junior, did most of his damage on the ground and ran Tug Valley’s offense superbly, rushing 14 times for 82 yards, including an electrifying 63-yard touchdown run at the 10:04 mark of the second quarter.
That put up the Panthers for good.
“Jonathan has some quickness,” Clusky said. “Once he gets into the secondary he can go.”
The first quarter was scoreless but it looked as if Tug Valley would score on the first drive, taking the opening kickoff nearly 60 yards in 16 plays to the 1-yard line. Tug, however, fumbled the ball and Man’s Nick Collins recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
The penalties then continued to mount for Man.
Starting receiver Trey Whitt was ejected late in the first quarter after getting tackled hard and getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Man later drove to the Tug 43 but Simpson was intercepted by freshman lineman Parker Brewer at the 45 of the Panthers.
The Panthers drove all the way to the Man 17-yard line and Blankenship was stopped on a fourth-and-two play to end the half.
The Billies, however, were called for a 5-yard facemask penalty, giving Tug Valley one untimed down at the 9.
Man’s Matt Sanders, however, broke up a halfback gadget play by Elia in the end zone as TVHS led 6-0 at the half.
The Billies then had another miscue in the early moments of the third quarter with a special teams blunder.
Man was forced to punt on a fourth-and-18 from its own 9-yard line. However, the snap to Sanders went high and his punt was blocked, giving the Panthers the ball at the 5.
Then on the very next snap, Noah Lucas crashed into the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run as the Panthers led 12-0 with 8:27 left in the third. The 2-point conversion failed.
McCoy’s score then got Man back in it but that’s all the Billies could muster.
Elia led Tug Valley as he had 20 carries for 90 yards. Lucas had six rushes for nine yards. Chandler Pack had one rush for four yards.
Simpson led Man’s ground attack with eight carries for 86 yards. Freshman Zach Frye had 13 carries for 41 yards. Whitt had three tries for 31 yards. Seth Osborne had four attempts for 19 yards. McCoy had three carries for 14 yards and Charles Rosser two tries for seven yards.
Elia had one catch for six yards. Lucas finished with one grab for four yards.
Collins had one catch for 16 yards for Man. Sanders reeled in one pass for 11 yards. McCoy snared one pass for seven yards. Browning had the one catch late for 28 yards.
Tug Valley won the time of possession battle 25:12 to 22:48.
Man, coached by Harvey Arms, are scheduled to close out the season next Friday night at Class A Van.
The Billies have dropped four straight games and will be looking to close out the season with a 5-5 mark.
2016 Man High School
Football Schedule (4-5):
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, W 25-10
Oct. 7: at Chapmanville, L 21-40
Oct. 14: Bluefield, L 21-24
Oct. 21: Point Pleasant, L 0-41
Oct. 28: Tug Valley, L 6-12
Nov. 4: at Van, 7:30 p.m.
2016 Tug Valley
High School Football Schedule (7-3):
Aug. 26: at Sherman, L 20-25
Sept. 2: at Meadow Bridge, W 37-0
Sept. 9: Van, W 42-20
Sept. 16: Sheldon Clark, Ky., W 46-12
Sept. 23: Tolsia, L 16-36
Sept. 30: at Buffalo, L 12-35
Oct. 7: at Valley Fayette, W 30-6
Oct. 14: Mount View, W 38-16
Oct. 21: Montcalm, W 50-14
Oct. 28: at Man, W 12-6
Nov. 4: Open Date
Nov. 11-12: Class A playoffs, TBA
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).