MAN — The Man High School football team’s season came to a close on Friday night as the Hillbillies lost 30-24 to Tug Valley at Man’s George A. Queen Memorial Stadium.
Since Man’s bye week is next week, the Billies finished up their 10-game schedule a week early and close out the season with a 2-8 record.
It’s the third straight losing season for Man, which played in the Class A state championship game in 2009.
The future looks bright for the Billies, however, which returns 30 players next season. Playing their last game for Man on Friday night was the team’s eight seniors including: Justin Cantrell, Marcus Murrell, David Belcher, Chris Clark, Cody Gibson, Tyler Monroe, Joe Cantrell and Tyler Mounts.
Tug Valley, ranked No. 15 in the state in Class AA, improved to 7-2 on the season. The Panthers, which dropped down from 2A this fall, were new to the Billies’ schedule and are fighting for a playoff spot.
Friday night’s game was a tale of two halves as Tug Valley jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead only to hold on for the 30-24 win after Man outscored the Panthers 24-6 in the second half.
“It was a tale of halves but we waited too long to get started,” Man coach Harvey Arms said. “We were young (this season). We but we got 30 kids coming back next year.”
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched 67 yards on eight plays, capped off by a touchdown catch by David Runyon from quarterback Mikey Newsome, who would throw four touchdowns on the night to four different receivers. Ryan Preece caught the two-point conversion pass as the Panthers led 8-0 with 9:13 left in the first quarter.
The Billies were unable to move the football on their first possession and had to punt. A bad snap gave the ball to the Panthers at the Man 32-yard line.
Then on a fourth-and-10, Newsome tossed a touchdown strike to Aaron Muncy. Jessie Mays ran in the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 Tug Valley with 5:49 to go in the first quarter.
The Panthers built their lead to 24-0 with 9:11 left until halftime, driving 92 yards in 16 plays as Newsome hooked up with Corey Dillon on a 16-yard touchdown catch. Runyon ran in for the two-point conversion as Tug Valley held a commanding lead at the break.
Man then got its first points of the game with only eight ticks left on the third quarter clock as the Billies moved the pigskin from their own 20-yard line to pay dirt on Noah Maynard’s 3-yard touchdown run. Cayce Mullins then ran in the two-point conversion as the Billies cut it to 24-8.
On the very next play from scrimmage, the Panthers reached the end zone again as Newsome found Ryan Preece wide open on a 67-yard touchdown score as the third quarter came to an end. The PAT failed as the Panthers took a 30-8 lead into the fourth quarter.
Man was down but not out.
The Billies’ David Belcher then jump-started Man with a kickoff return to midfield.
Braden Griffin then had big runs of 20 and 15 yards to set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Neal Mullins. Cayce Mullins tacked on the two-point conversion as Man cut Tug Valley’s lead to 30-16 with 10:27 left in the game.
Man’s defense then held the Panthers on downs on their own 20-yard line and forced a punt. Neal Mullins then raced in to block the kick, giving Man great field position at the Panthers’ 18-yard stripe.
Five plays later, freshman quarterback John Thomas Keffer threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to senior Justin Cantrell. Once again, Cayce Mullins ran in the two-point conversion to make it 30-24 with 6:11 to play.
Tug Valley got the ball back and drove to the Man 13-yard line but the Billies’ defense held. That gave Man one last shot at winning the game with 1:45 left.
Cayce Mullins got Man going with a 38-yard halfback pass to Cantrell. Keffer then fired a 16-yard completion to Cantrell to move the ball to the Tug Valley 44-yard line with just 20 seconds left in the game. Out of timeouts, Keffer then spiked the ball to stop the clock with nine seconds left.
Keffer’s pass was incomplete on the next play as just three seconds showed on the clock. He then had one last pass but it was incomplete as well as time expired in the game and on Man’s 2012 football season.
Newsome finished the game 12-for-29 passing for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Runyon had 76 yards on 19 carries to lead the Panthers on the ground.
Keffer finished 6-for-16 passing for 72 yards and one touchdown. Griffin rushed 16 times for 79 yards and a score while Neal Mullins had eight carries for 88 yards and one TD. Maynard had eight attempts for 49 yards and one score.