A contrast of styles should make for an interesting opening night on Friday as county rivals Logan and Man are set to square off in the season opening high school football game at the Logan Football Stadium.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Both teams made it to the playoffs last season and had first-round post-season exits.
Class A Man went 9-2 last year, falling 21-16 at home to Bishop Donahue in the opening round of the playoffs. Class AAA Logan was 7-4 and was taken out of the post-season at Point Pleasant, 41-14.
As always, the traditional season opening Logan-Man game is key for both teams.
Man has an opportunity to gain 12 points in the WVSSAC point system — or the equivalent of two wins over Class A teams — if the Hillbillies are able to prevail on Friday night over the Wildcats.
With a very difficult schedule looming, Logan is hoping to get the season started with a much-neeed win.
The Billies enter the contest ranked in two preseason polls. Man is rated No. 9 in the state in the Charleston Daily Mail poll and 10th in Class A in the MetroNewsPower Index.
Logan coach Gary Mullins, entering his 11th season at the helm, is 7-3 against Man in the last 10 years.
The Wildcats have beaten the Hillbillies four straight years, including last year’s 40-20 victory over Man. The Billies last beat rival Logan in 2009 by a 34-7 score en route to the Super Six in Wheeling.
Logan owns a 12-3 edge over Man since 1999.
Before that, Man largely dominated the series with the Cats.
Logan coach Gary Mullins said the Billies will be very tough to beat.
“It’s pretty much the same as it is every year,” Mullins said. “They are big and strong and we’re quick and athletic. It’s definitely a meeting of two styles that are opposite of one another. It’s usually who makes the least amount of mistakes and who can handle the pressure of playing in that first game with all of the excitment as to who is going to win the game. You can’t have a bunch of turnovers. For us, offensively, we have to be more steady than what we have been up until this point. We have to put some drives together for sure.”
Man coach Harvey Arms, now in his 12th season as head coach, said the Billies are excited to open the season.
“We have practiced a lot and now the excitement level is up,” Arms said. “It’s a lot more fun to play against somebody else to play for real than to practice and scrimmage.”
Logan is led by senior quarterback Ryan Miller, a part-time starter from a year ago. Last year, Miller shared QB duties as he was 39-for-81 passing for 751 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions.
With two graduations in the backfield, Logan is poised to turn to halfback Matthew Cox (5-8, 165), who ran 38 times for 341 yards last year and scored three touchdowns in a backup role. Filling in for an injured Worm Street in last year’s 39-0 win at Shady Spring, Cox ran for 105 yards.
“Logan is a good-sized school and has good numbers and they are always going to be good,” Arms said. “We know they will have a good team out there ready to play football. They lost some people from last year but they have plenty of people to fill in. We look for them to be as tough as always.”
With Miller and a good receiving corp, the Wildcats will look to run to spread offense this fall with four wide sets.
Often times you will see Miller operate out of the shotgun.
He has the arm to go deep.
Man knows this.
In last year’s 40-20 season-opening victory at Man, Miller hit Josh Rein for a 59-yard touchdown strike on the very first play.
“They threw the ball a lot in their scrimmage at Wayne last week,” Arms said. “They killed us last year with the bomb. We were looking for it in last year’s game and they still got us. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Logan must deal with Man junior quarterback John Thomas Keffer and the backfield tandem of Neil Mullins and Mikle Scott Rowe.
Man will more than likely look to establish the ground game early on and move the chains.
It that doesn’t work, the Billies have Keffer, a three-year starter at QB. Last fall, Keffer completed 104-of-185 passes (56.2 percent) for 1,316 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Keffer has plenty of big-play type of receivers to throw to.
“They are good everywhere. They have a good quarterback and good running backs,” Mullins said of the Billies. “They have a good offensive line and they are very talented. They are good everywhere you look, so we’re going to have to play a great game defensively to beat them.”
Logan seemed to fair pretty well in its two preseason games.
Two weeks ago, the Wildcats had a home scrimmage against Paintsville (Ky.) and Tug Valley. The preseason game against Paintsville was highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown strike from Miller to wide receiver and football newcomer Zac Acord on the first play.
Logan then went to soggy Pioneer Field in Wayne last Friday and scrimmaged host Wayne. The Pioneers ended up winning 28-0 on a rainy night. The game was halted early due to severe lightning and heavy rain.
“The weather was bad,” Mullins said. “Defensively, we played better than we did in the first scrimmage. We played some good, hard football. We just couldn’t get a stop when we needed one. Offensively, we just couldn’t get anything going. The timing wasn’t there but they (Wayne) are very good. We have a lot of work to do.”
One of Logan’s biggest concerns heading into the season is with its offensive line which was hit hard by gradution.
It’s a whole new O-line for the Cats.
“That was the best part about our offense last Friday night,” Mullins said. “We had good protection all night long. They weren’t perfect but we were pleasantly surprised with their pass blocking. We just have to keep getting better.”
After two preseason games, Mullins said starters on the offensive line have emerged. Logan began the preseason camp in early August not knowing who would get the nods.
On the all-important left side, Miller’s blind side, senior Jacob Browning (6-0, 225) appears to have won the starting job at tackle. Jon Workman (6-0, 290 junior) is the left guard.
Ryan Ellis (6-0, 235 junior) is expected to start at center.
On the right side of the offensive line, Gavin Ellis (6-0, 230 junior) looks to have the inside track at guard. The right tackle is Hunter Vance (5-9, 230 junior), Mullins said.
“Jacob Browning will be our left tackle,” Mullins said. “Jon Workman is our left guard. Ryan Ellis is our center. Gavin Ellis is our right guard and Hunter Vance is our left tackle. Chance Conn and Caleb McDonald will be rotating in there to play in those positions also.”
Man had two preseason games — the first one at Class AAA George Washington and last Saturday on the road at Midland Trail where the Billies played the host team and also Pocahontas County, which is a regular season matchup for Man this year.
Man split, losing to Pocahontas County in the first game and then coming back to top Midland Trail.
“There’s some things we thought we did pretty well in the preseason and others we know we still have a lot of work to do. It’s still early in the season,” Arms said. “We still have a lot of decisions to make personnel-wise.”
Logan has two injuries heading into the season.
Colten Tomblin, a 6-1, 180-pound wide receiver and linebacker, has a broken leg which was sustained in the preseason game with Paintsville, Ky., on Aug. 16. Tomblin was projected to start at linebacker.
Cameron Jackson, a sophomore WR/DB, also has a broken leg which happened last week at practice.
Mullins said there’s a possibility Tomblin and Jackson could return late this season.
“Both of them are out for about six weeks,” Mullins said.
Arms said his team is healthy going into the game.
“We’ve got a few guys banged up a bit but by Friday I think everyone will be ready to go,” he said.
The weather and field conditions are expected to be excellent on Friday night at Logan. It could be quite hot, however, even by game time. A high temperature of 92 degrees is in the forecast with a low of 70.
Game time temperatures will most likely be in the low 80s.
There is only a 10 percent chance of rain.
With a mostly dry week, Logan’s grass field should be fast.
Logan vs. Man Football Series
Last 10 years (Logan leads 7-3)
2013: Logan 40, Man 20
2012: Logan 33, Man 0
2011: Logan 30, Man 7
2010: Logan 55, Man 18
2009: Man 34, Logan 7
2008: Logan 14, Man 12
2007: Logan 33, Man 14
2006: Man 18, Logan 13
2005: Logan 12, Man 10
2004: Man 22, Logan 18