For the winner of the traditional high school football season opener between Logan and Man the rewards are sometimes great.
Not always, but often.
Three years ago, the Class A Man Hillbillies manhandled their Class AAA big brother Logan, 34-7. Man grabbed Triple-A points for beating the Wildcats in the computer playoff points system and went on to go 12-2, eventually reaching the Wheeling Super Six.
Two years ago, Logan routed Man 55-18 and went on to finish 6-5 with a No. 16 seed and Class AAA playoff berth.
Last year, after a 30-7 victory over Man, Logan finished the regular season with an 8-2 mark and hosted an opening-round playoff game for the first time since 1990 after grabbing the fourth seed.
This time, both Man and Logan are hoping for that kind of success with a win in the season opener. The Wildcats and Billies are set to play on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the season opener at Logan Stadium. Logan finished 8-3 last season after its loss to Parkersburg South in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. Man hopes to start off with a win and erase last year’s 2-8 mark.
Logan also defeated Chapmanville 22-21 last year to win the county championship.
“Our first goal on our board is to be the county champion,” Logan coach Gary Mullins said. “We can’t achieve our first goal without winning this game. It seems to go hand-and-hand with everything else. Every goal that we have set as a team is helped or hinges on this first game. Our guys are really excited about getting out there. It’s always a great atmosphere and it’s always fun to see what happens because you never know how that ball is going to bounce that first night.”
Logan scrimmaged Tug Valley at Naugatuck and a played a half each against Herbert Hoover and Warren Local (Ohio) during the preseason.
The Wildcats are ready to play one that counts.
“We’ve been really successful in our scrimmage games,” Mullins said. “We try to take that in perspective and try to understand that we are just working on some things. A lot of teams gave us some different looks and we pretty much came out uninjured. Just about everyone is healthy and that’s about all that you can ask for with your scrimmage games.”
Mullins said Man is always a tough opener. The Billies dominated the series against Logan for quite some time but since 2000 the Cats have a 9-3 mark against Man. It’s a 10-3 edge if you count the 1999 game which was won by the Wildcats.
“They will be the same as they always are,” Mullins said. “They are really physical, they always play great against us and they are always well prepared. They are a very good football team, are well coached and it’s a hard game to win. We’re looking forward to going out there and giving it our best.”
Man is expected to start freshman quarterback John Thomas Keffer. Look for Logan to try to contain Man’s usually strong ground game to make the new man under center put the ball to the air.
“Anytime you play them forcing them to pass is a big deal,” Mullins said. “They are so physical and they want to run the ball down your throats. You have to try to get them to throw the ball. But they have a great freshman quarterback and we have to be prepared for him and understand that he’s very capable of beating us.”
Mullins said senior Chris Marcum will start at quarterback for Logan. Last year, he injured his knee in Week 2 and Logan handed over the keys to Khaleel Reynolds, a hybrid wide receiver/running back. Reynolds played well before Marcum was able to return very late in the season.
“He’s over 60 percent in his completion rate,” Mullins said of Marcum. “He threw six touchdown passes and one interception in the preseason. If he can keep up that kind of ratio we’re going to be fine.”
Man played a preseason game against Class AAA George Washington and then went to Midland Trail.
Man coach Harvey Arms said he saw some good signs from his young team.
“We think that the kids played hard and the kids made some improvements,” Arms said. “From one scrimmage to the next we thought that we made considerable improvement. We’re still working at it and we’re preparing for a long season. The GW scrimmage was a chance to see how we can compete and we feel like if we can compete against them we’ll be OK during the season because they are one of the toughest teams — if not the toughest team — in the state.”
Arms said Logan is dangerous in the skilled positions.
“They have a lot of talent on their team,” he said. “They have a lot of people coming back especially at the skilled positions. In high school football that always helps to have a number of good skilled people. They have a lot of experience at quarterback, running back and especially with their receivers. Up front, they have a couple players back from last year, so we’re expecting them to be a really tough team.”
Arms said Keffer is handling his role as Man’s starting quarterback very well.
“He’s played well for us,” Arms said. “It’s tough to be a freshman and be a starter in high school but he’s played very well for us. So far, the pressure isn’t bothering him it doesn’t seem and he’s throwing the ball very well for us. The most important thing is that he’s taking them into the huddle and he’s leading the team.”
Arms said his players have felt the beginning of the season excitement this week at practice.
“When you practice as long as we have it’s time to play,” he said. “You get tired of beating on each other and it’s time to go beat on someone else.”
Logan-Man scores since 2000 (Logan leads 9-3):
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
2003: Logan 18, Man 0
2002: Logan 27, Man 6
2001: Logan 19, Man 0
2000: Logan 49, Man 9