Billies hope to dig way past Miners
MAN — It’s just Man’s bad luck.
The Class A Man High School football team already plays one of the toughest schedules in the state with 2011 3A playoff team Logan and a host of other Double-A schools.
Man doesn’t get any help from its bye date, either.
Instead of having its open date in the middle of the season in an ideal world, the Billies’ bye week is Nov. 2 during the final week of the season.
That means Man must play 10 games in 10 weeks with no let up.
It doesn’t get any easier on Friday night as Man (1-3) travels to Newtown to take on the surging Mingo Central Miners (2-1) at James H. “Buck” Harless Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Mingo Central, a second-year consolidation of the old Williamson, Burch, Matewan and Gilbert high schools, is coming off last week’s 37-24 win at home over Westside on Saturday night in the King Coal Bowl. The Miners lost 19-16 at Wyoming East in the opener and bounced back to defeat River View 34-12 in Week 3 after observing an open date.
Man comes into the game after at 22-13 road loss to the common opponent River View Raiders, ranked last week No. 16 in the state in Class AA.
The Hillbillies, which beat Mingo Central 22-8 in last year’s first-ever meeting between the two schools, are certainly not conceding defeat.
Man gave the Raiders all they wanted last week and has proven itself all season against bigger opponents.
The challenge, however, will be another big one on Friday night for the Billies as Man’s tough 2012 season schedule reaches the mid-way point.
“They are playing really well it seems,” Man coach Harvey Arms said of the Miners, ranked No. 12 in the state this week in the Class AA Computer Ratings. “Their record shows that anyway.”
Mingo Central, coached by Danny “Yogi” Kinder, is led by senior tailback Joe May, who rushed for 184 yards and scored four touchdowns in the upset win over River View a couple of weeks ago.
In last week’s game, May rushed 25 times for 176 yards and scored three touchdowns, including runs of 65 and 10 yards and also scoring on an 85-yard kickoff return. He also grabbed three passes for 40 more yards.
“He had a big night against Westside,” Arms said of May. “He’s a threat just about anywhere, especially on special teams. He broke the second half kickoff that put them ahead of Westside. He had well over 100 yards. He’s the real deal. He’s a good back. He’s one of those kinds of high school players that can do just anything for you. He’s also a good defensive player. He’s going to be tough for us to handle.”
MC’s quarterback is freshman Stevie Hammond. He scored one of Mingo Central’s touchdowns on a 6-yard run against River View. Hammond was 6-for-10 passing for 59 yards and an interception against Westside.
The Miners’ defense kept the Raiders off the scoreboard in the second half. Top Mingo Central defenders are Garth Simpkins, Drew Kirk, Joe Hall, Alex Lee and Devin Ellis.
The Miners trailed Westside 18-14 at halftime last week and allowed 274 yards of total offense in the first two quarters before rallying. May’s kickoff return and two-point conversion run put MC up for good, 22-18. Hammond later added an 11-yard TD run to make it 30-18 after the conversion. May then capped off the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
The Renegades ended up outgaining Mingo Central 390-279 in total offense.
The Miners are looking to improve from last year’s 5-5 season in which Mingo Central missed making the playoffs. The loss to Man helped derail Mingo Central’s post-season hopes last fall.
Last week against the Raiders, Man was led again by Braden Griffin who rulled up 127 yards rushing on 20 carries and had two touchdowns. David Belcher added 50 yards on 12 attempts. Man freshman quarterback John Thomas Keffer was 2-for-11 passing for 27 yards.
Man trailed River View just 6-0 at the half and 14-7 late in the third quarter.
“Our kids have been playing well and playing hard,” Arms said. “We just haven’t been able to make that game-breaking play yet. We kept it close but we needed a play to allow us to win the game.”
This will be Man’s first-ever trip to Mingo Central’s Harless Stadium.
The facility, which has a Field Turf surface and has a small college atmosphere, has a capacity of 5,000 and is regarded as one of the top high school stadiums in the state.
The football field is also the new home of the annual Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl. In late July, the West Virginia All-Stars beat Kentucky 37-12 in the first Senior Bowl to be played at Mingo Central.
Harless Stadium sits on top of one huge man-made plateau, high in elevation.
In fact, the whole 90-acre site of the Mingo Central school, football stadium, parking lot and other yet-to-be constructed athletic fields, are one big coal reclaim site — land donated by Nicewonder Contracting Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources.
The school cost a reported $37 million to build but taxpayer and/or school funds were not used to construct the football stadium.
A new access road, part of the King Coal Highway system, connects the old Route 65 down in the valley to Mingo Central High School up on the mountain top.
With the high elevation it is said by locals that the average temperatures are often times 5 to 8 degrees cooler on top of the mountain than down in the valley at Matewan.
At this summer’s Hatfield-McCoy Bowl, the game time temperature was somewhere around 80 degrees but by game’s end, the mercury had plunged to 70 with a strong, cool, fall-like breeze.
Snow flurries were reported as early as last October during a Mingo Central home game.
Arms said Mingo Central has a first-class facility.
“We’ve played JV ball there,” Arms said. “It’s a nice place and it’s one of the top high school facilities — if not the top facility in the state. It’s brand new and they did it right when they built it. It’s really a nice place. It’s all up there by itself and there’s plenty of room. The only thing is that you hope the bad weather doesn’t hit. Last year when we played JV ball there it rained and the fog moved in. You couldn’t see anything.”
Friday’s Man-Mingo Central game is dubbed the “John Fry Bowl,” honoring the late Mingo Central assistant coach who passed away suddenly over the summer.
Fry, just 27 years old at the time of his death, had also been the head coach of the West Virginia All-Stars at the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl.
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