Billies close out season against Tug Valley
by Paul Adkins
MAN — With only one game left to play in the 2012 high school football season the Man Hillbillies would like to end on a good note.
Man (2-7) is scheduled to close it out on Friday night at home against Tug Valley (6-2), which is ranked No. 15 in the state in this week’s Class A computer ratings.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Stadium. It will also be Man’s Senior Night.
The Billies are coming off last week’s 7-6 loss at Pocahontas County.
The Panthers, a new opponent for Man in football and a new Single-A team this fall, were idle last week.
Tug Valley last played a couple of weeks ago and won 40-20 at home over Van at Bob Brewer Field in Naugatuck.
It’s been another season of disappointments for the Man football team, which is suffering through its third straight losing campaign after advancing to the Super Six in Wheeling in 2009 with a 12-2 season.
Man coach Harvey Arms said it would be nice for his young team to finish on a strong note but knows Tug Valley is much improved from last year. The Panthers were added to this year’s Man schedule to replace Buffalo.
“They look like they are going into the playoffs or at least they have got a shot,” Arms said of the Panthers. “They have played well all season long. You don’t get a 6-2 record without playing well. We fully expect that we’re going to have another tough opponent.”
On the flip side, Coach Tony Clusky’s Tug Valley squad is fighting for a Class A playoff berth. The Panthers advanced to the Double-A playoffs a couple of seasons ago but dropped back down to Single-A status this fall after reclassification.
Against Van, the Panthers scored on their first drive as David Runyon plunged in from 1 yard out. Tug Valley led 6-0 and never trailed the Bulldogs.
Later on, Tug Valley’s Isaac Parsley recovered a fumble on the Van 38 and four plays later the Panthers were in the end zone again with quarterback Mikey Newsome’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Corey Dillon.
Tug Valley later broke it open with a 65-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ryan Preece. Tug Valley then added a 12-yard TD run by Justin Baisden in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers played without senior running back Aaron Muncy in the second half as he was nursing an injured ankle.
Runyon led Tug Valley with 93 yards rushing on 13 carries, while Baisden had 78 on 18 totes. Conley rushed for 47 yards on 10 tries and completed 1-of-3 passes for 18 yards, but he threw two interceptions.
Newsome completed 3-of-7 passes for 71 yards and a TD.
Dillon led Tug Valley in receiving as he snared two passes for 58 yards, including a score.
Defensively, Preece led the Panthers with nine tackles, while Parsley had seven.
Arms said Man has a good team, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“They throw the ball pretty well,” he said. “They also run the ball well. Their tailback is a good runner and their fullback runs hard on the inside. They have some good linemen and they have a good offensive scheme.”
The Panthers opened the season with a 26-6 win at Sherman and then lost 27-8 at Meadow Bridge. Tug Valley then reeled off four straight victories as the Panthers topped Mount View (34-28), Twin Valley, Va. (42-30), Tolsia (18-14) and Hannan (33-0) before falling 34-30 at Westside on Oct. 5.
Westside and Mount View are two common opponents. The Billies beat Mount View (20-12) and lost to the Renegades (44-20). Since beating the Golden Knights in Week 2 to even up its record at 1-1, Man has lost six out of its last seven contests. The only other victory was a 48-13 win on Sept. 28 at home over Fayetteville.
Man’s offense has struggled most of the season. Taking out the Fayetteville game, the Billies have scored just 85 points in eight games — an average of just 10 points a contest.
The Billies managed just six points last week at Pocahontas County on a 9-yard touchdown pass from John Thomas Keffer to David Belcher. Man, though, missed on the tw0-point conversion attempt and that ended up being the difference.
Man was held to only 115 yards of total offense. Keffer was 7-for-22 passing for 57 yards. Belcher had five catches for 43 yards. The Billies were held to just 58 yards rushing on 25 tries. Braden Griffin had 14 carries for 35 yards.
Tracy Jones led the Man defense against the Warriors with 11 tackles. Robert Caudill had 10 and Dakota Toth eight. Belcher also picked off a pass. Toth had a fumble recovery.
“It came down to the fact that we went for two and missed our extra point try,” Arms said of last week’s game. “It was a good ballgame and it was a tough ballgame. Both defensive teams played well.”
It’s been a frustrating 2012 season for the Billies but Man hopes to finish strong against the Panthers.
“Even though we’re young we expected to get away from some of the early mistakes that we made at the beginning of the season,” Arms said. “Here at the end of the season we’re still making some of the same mistakes that we made early. Maybe that’s an indication at just how young we are. We’ve practiced and worked hard at it but still when it comes to game time we’re still not making that big play that could have gotten us over the top.”
Many players will be back for the Billies next fall.
“We want our seniors to be able to end on a great note,” Arms said. “For the others that are coming back we’re looking at this last game as the first game for next season. We have a great bunch of players that have worked hard all year long. The attitude has never been down and we never got done on each other or the team.”
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