MAN - Had it not been for a slow start to the 2018 season, the Man High School football team might have slipped into the Class AA playoffs.
After an 0-2 hole with losses to Logan (20-14) in the season opener, a game many thought the Hillbillies were favored, and then a tough setback to much-improved Mount View (28-12), Man was playing catch up all season.
Then Man got hot, going 6-2 over its last eight games, including an 18-14 win over county rival Chapmanville in the finale. The only two losses during that span were to state powerhouses Point Pleasant and Keyser.
It wasn't good enough to reach the post-season as Man closed out 6-4.
Still, it was a good season for Man football, which posted the best record in Logan County and shared county championship honors with Logan and CRHS.
Since rejoining the Double-A ranks, the Billies were 5-5 in 2016 and just 1-9 in 2018.
Several veteran players are back for Man this fall and that bodes will for the Billies, which are scheduled to begin their three-week June summer practice period on Monday, June 10.
"We just want to get back into things and get ready for the full practices which begin in August," Man coach Harvey Arms said. "We're going to try to get everybody on the same page and get as many people involved as we can and try to work on improving what we did in the past and look at the possibilities of putting in some new things."
Part of the three-week practices are participation in 7-on-7 events. Man is scheduled to play in Chapmanville's 10-team 7-on-7 on June 17 at Chapmanville's Tiger Stadium.
The name of the game for the Man football team under Arms has been its patented running attack and its ball control offense.
Passing the ball has always been secondary.
The 7-on-7 passing scrimmages, however, gives Man a chance to put it in the air.
"Running has always been our game," Arms said. "We are for sure going to that one in Chapmanville and we're looking at the possibilities of going to some more. The 7-on-7s are fun for the kids. They like to play. For a team like us I'm not sure how it coincides with us with what we do in the regular season. We've never been a team that really throws the ball that much, but still, it's fun to do and it's good to add some new wrinkles in what you do."
Man does have a good veteran quarterback returning with rising senior Caleb Milton coming back as well as a lot of its skilled position players.
"We've got our starter, Milton, and our backup quarterback coming back," coach Arms said. "We've got a lot of other players coming back, some of them with two or three seasons under their belts. There's a lot coming back but we really need to add some more numbers to our lines. A lot of of skilled position players are returning."
Milton's twin brother Sam Milton, one of the Billies' top receivers is also back, along with senior linebacker/running back Brock Muncy, a Class AA Special Honorable Mention All-State selection from a year ago. Sam Milton was named Honorable Mention All-State last year.
Erick Grimmett, a rising junior, is also back. He was named Honorable Mention last year, as well as Daniel Browning.
Quentin Moody, a rising senior and a top Man running back/wide receiver, also returns as well as running backs Cameron Frye (junior), Zack Frye (senior), Nick Plumley (junior) and Dylan Morris (senior).
Regular practices for the upcoming season are set to start in early August for Man.
The Billies have two preseason scrimmages set.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, Man is set to travel to Charleston's South Hills area as the Billies are slated to play at Class AAA George Washington in its traditional preseason opener.
The second scrimmage is then scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24 at Oak Hill, a new preseason opponent.
Man had to scramble to find a second preseason foe as the River View Grid-O-Rama, held the last several years, was canceled due to a quirk in the Raiders' schedule. Man had scrimmaged at River View several years in a row.
River View is scheduled to open the regular season on a Monday on Aug. 26 at home against Montcalm in the kickoff game to the new season in the state of West Virginia. The Raiders then have to turn around and play a second game in Week 1 on Friday, Aug. 30 at Mount View.
Therefore, there was no way River View could have played in the Grid-O-Rama the Saturday before its opener. The Raiders also have just nine games scheduled for the season.
"We still have GW for the first week," Arms said. "But in the second week, we had been going to the scrimmage at River View but they had something happen in their schedule that they are actually going to be playing two games in the first week. They are going to play that Monday and also that Friday. So they cancelled that Grid-O-Rama that they had. So we have Oak Hill for the second scrimmage."
Arms said the WVSSAC only recently changed the rule which had stated the first scrimmage had to be held no sooner than that Saturday.
"They've actually changed the rule now that you can have your first scrimmage on that Friday evening if you want to," Arms said. "They just let us know about that a couple weeks ago."
Man is scheduled to open the regular season on Friday, August 30 at home against Logan.
Logan leads 52-27-1 in the all-time series which dates back to 1923.
The Wildcats have have won the last three meetings, also taking a 48-13 win in 2016 and a 26-8 victory in 2017.
Man last beat Logan in back-to-back seasons in 2014 with a 32-26 overtime win at Logan and an 18-13 victory in 2015.
The Billies have just four home games scheduled this season and will hit the road six times.
Paul Adkins is the sports editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.