MAN – The Logan-Man football game is always special.
The traditional opener between the Logan County rivals brings thousands of fans and there’s always excitement and anticipation in the hot, humid late August air.
Logan doubled up on its county rival Man in Friday night’s season opener, downing the Hillbillies 40-20 at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Field.
The pre-game festivities took on special meaning as Logan sophomore football player Skyler Miller received a standing ovation from both sides of the stadium as he went out onto the field as the lone captain during the coin flip.
Miller, who has been battling leukemia since last spring, has been sick but Logan coach Gary Mullins hopes he is well enough to return to the team sometime this season or during his junior year in 2014. Miller did not play but was honored after the game as he received special mention as the game’s Lions Club Most Valuable Player along with Man’s Tracy Jones.
As for the game, the Wildcats (1-0) took care of business with a balanced attack as junior quarterback Ryan Miller, making his first ever varsity start under center, was 8-for-13 passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns as Logan beat Man for the fourth straight year and moved its record to 12-3 overall against the rival Class A Hillbillies since 1999.
Senior Logan running back Brynden “Worm” Street rushed 12 times for 141 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown jaunt and two two-point conversions.
It didn’t take long for Logan to take the lead for good as Miller hooked up with the speedy Josh Rein for a 59-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage just 15 seconds into the game. The PAT failed but Logan led 6-0.
It was the second time Logan had struck gold early on against Man in as many years. Last season, Brant Williams returned the opening kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown against Man.
Miller has shown big-play potential already. During a preseason game with Tug Valley, he fired a 70-yard TD pass to Rein on the very first play. He also helped Logan roll up a combined 58 points in the second preseason scrimmage last week against Ravenswood and Herbert Hoover.
The Wildcats never looked back, leading 28-8 at the half and eventually coasting to victory.
“We are pleased we’re 1-0 and that’s all that matters,” Logan 10th-year coach Gary Mullins said. “Ryan Miller did a great job for the first time and in front of the big crowd. We’re going to have to get better in the secondary, but our offensive line did a great job. It was a good game. We came out strong early. We had a good first half. We’re going to enjoy this one and come Monday we have to get ready for game two.”
Man coach Harvey Arms, entering his 12th season, said his team didn’t quit despite the early deficit.
“We got burned early and that turned the game in their favor,” Arms said. “But our kids didn’t fold the tent and they kept playing hard. It was a good effort but we must now get ready for Mount View.”
After the early Logan score, Man went three-and-out on its first possession.
The Class AAA Wildcats then pushed their lead to 14-0 with 7:37 left in the first quarter on a hook-and-ladder play from Rein to Clayton Marcum for a 35-yard score. Street scored on the two-point conversion play.
Logan then capitalized on a Man fumble as sophomore quarterback John Thomas Keffer put the pigskin on the grass at the Billies’ 19-yard line. Just three plays later, Tyler Vernatter scored on a 1-yard TD plunge. Daniel Hanks booted the extra point kick and Logan led 21-0 with 5:57 to go in the opening quarter.
Man could have very well quit but hung in there, battling back for a touchdown with a 1-yard score by Neil Mullins with 11:05 left until halftime. Keffer then found Cayce Mullins in the end zone on the two-point conversion play as Man trailed 21-8. Man drove 67 yards in 13 plays.
The Billies looked to get back into the game and caught a break as Street fumbled the ball away and Man recovered at the Wildcat 29-yard line. But just two plays later, Neil Mullins fumbled the ball back to Logan.
The Wildcats then pushed their lead to 28-8 with 3:59 left until the half as Street broke loose for an electrifying 75-yard TD run. The PAT by Hanks was good.
In the third quarter, both the Man and Logan defenses tightened up but Logan was able to manage a touchdown late in the third quarter with a 20-yard touchdown run by Matt Cox to make it 34-8 with 1:15 showing on the clock.
Later, Keffer was intercepted by Marcum but a roughing the passer penalty gave the ball back to the Billies near midfield as the fourth quarter got under way. Man was able to capitalize as speedster Jones caught a 46-yard touchdown pass from Keffer with 9:46 left in the game. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 34-14 in favor of LHS.
Logan responded with a 30-yard touchdown run by Vernatter with 8:34 left in the game to push the lead to 40-14. The PAT try by Hanks was no good.
Man then marched 68 yards on nine plays at Mikle Scott Rowe scored on a 1-yard TD run with 5:23 remaining. The big play during the drive was a 30-yard run by Mullins. The two-point conversion pass fell incomplete as Man trailed 40-20.
The Billies had one last chance to score in the final seconds of the game but Man was stopped just short of the goal line as time ran out.
Keffer was 15-for-32 passing for 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Jones had eight catches for 138 yards and a score. Cayce Mullins had five catches for 43 yards. Gage Harvey had one grab for seven yards.
Neil Mullins rushed 15 times for 74 yards and one TD. Braden Griffin had 10 carries for 27 yards and one catch for one yard. Rowe ran for 26 yards on five carries, including a touchdown.
For Logan, Rein had five catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Workman had one grab for 21 yards. Marcum had the 35-yard hook-and-ladder TD catch. Brett Musick, a senior wide receiver, snared one pass for 18 yards.
Vernatter ran six times for 56 yards and two scores. Miller ran twice for seven yards and Cox had two carries for 27 yards and a score.
Logan had 22 rushes for 231 yards. With Miller’s 219 yards passing, the Cats had 450 yards of total offense for the game. Man had 353 total yards — 189 passing and 134 rushing.
On defense, Marcum and Stephen Dilly had nine tackles each to lead Logan. Vernatter had eight tackles, while Jacob Browning had seven and Workman six.
A.J. Grimmett and Street had five tackles each for Logan. Chris Browning, Preston Hepler and Kyle Runyon had four stops each. Ty Yeager, Tyler Vance and Cox had three tackles each. Chester Bradsher, Daniel Miller, Noah Corbett, Jeremiah Spears, Rein, Tres Duncan and Jody Butcher all had one tackle.
Chris Browning and Workman had two tackles each on special teams. Vance, Bradsher, Kyle Runyon, Cox and Rein had one each.
Grimmett, Vernatter and Runyon each had a QB sack for Logan.
Marcum had three pass breakups. Workman had two and Cox and Vernatter had one swat each.
Tyler Workman and Jon Workman had one fumble recovery each. Dilly caused a fumble and Marcum had a pick.
Rein punted twice for Logan for a 40-yard average.
Man’s defensive statistics were unavailable as of presstime.
Man (0-1) returns to action this Friday night a Mount View. Logan (1-0) heads to Shady Spring.