MAN — Man High School football coach Harvey Arms and his troops have been working hard the last several weeks in preparation for the upcoming grid season.
The Hillbillies, three years removed from their 2009 Wheeling Super Six season when Man played in the Class A state championship game, are trying to bounce back from a pair of losing seasons.
Man was just 2-8 last year with wins over Mount View (41-12) and Mingo Central (22-8) in Week 5 of the season. Man then lost five straight games to close out the season, falling to Fayetteville (21-0), Chapmanville (61-14), Roane County (42-21), Pocahontas County (13-6) and Buffalo (15-6).
The Billies hope to reverse the trend as Man opens the season on Aug. 24 at Class AAA county rival Logan. Man lost 30-7 at home to the Wildcats in last year’s season opener.
“Were trying to get everyone in the right positions on the field and we’re trying to build some depth,” said veteran Coach Arms.
The Billies have 37 players on the roster as the pads and hitting started this week.
Man was scheduled to travel to Class AAA George Washington on Saturday to take on the Patriots in the preseason opener. GW is one of the picks to make it to the state finals. Man then goes to Midland Trail on Aug. 17 before the regular season opener with Logan.
“The kids have been working very hard,” Arms said. “The offense is a little ahead of the defense. We are just trying to evaluate where we are right now.”
Man will field a very young team this season and could still be a year away.
“We are going to be very young. Our biggest class is freshmen,” Arms said.
The Billies appear to be handing the ball to freshman John Thomas Keffer at quarterback. Last year’s starting QB, Shane Browning, a two-year starter, has graduated along with eight other seniors.
In the backfield sophomores Braden Griffin and Neal Mullins are the probables. Ironically, Keffer, Griffin and Mullins are cousins.
Arms said Keffer is looking sharp so far at QB.
“He’s doing a good job,” Arms said. “He’s going to be OK. We’re going to be young. We have a lot of linemen returning and that will help us a lot in Marcus Murrell, Gage Harvey, Jeremiah Beavers, Joey Buchannan and Dakota Toth.”
Man also has several good receivers who are returning, including Justin Cantrell, David Belcher ande Tracy Jones.
Arms said practices have been smooth.
“We’ve had some good hitting the last several days,” he said.
Arms will be assisted this fall by Bill Lusk, James Toth and Charles Collins.
The Billies have one change to this year’s schedule. That comes in Week 10 on Oct. 26 when Man hosts Tug Valley.
The Panthers, 6-4 last year as a Class AA team and led again by veteran head coach Tony Clusky, replace Buffalo. Tug Valley, which is also set to play in Man’s new basketball sectional in the 2012-13 season, drops back down to Single-A status this year.
Man plays 10 games in 10 weeks with no open date this season.
It’s a difficult schedule, however, the Billies have six of their games at home this fall at the friendly confines of Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Stadium.
After the season-opening game at Logan, Man hosts Class AA Mount View on Aug. 31 and 2A Westside on Sept. 7 before going to 2A River View on Sept. 14.
Man then plays at 2A Mingo Central on Sept. 21, hosts Fayetteville on Sept. 28, hosts 2A Chapmanville on Oct. 5 and hosts 2A Roane County on Oct. 12.
The Billies play at Pocahontas County on Oct. 19 before the Tug Valley game.