NAUGATUCK — Talk about the tables turning.
It certainly happened on Friday night at a chilly Bob Brewer Stadium as the Class A Tug Valley Panthers scored a huge victory over Class AA No. 9-ranked Man with a 20-12 victory over the Hillbillies.
Previously undefeated Man lost 7-0 at Point Pleasant last week and with Friday’s setback at Tug Valley, Man dropped to 7-2 going into this Friday night’s regular season finale at Chapmanville.
With the hopes of a possible first-round home playoff game now over, Man is now fighting for its playoff lives. The Billies will likely need a win over Chapmanville just to qualify for the top 16 and get a post-season road game berth. With a loss to the Tigers, it could be dicey.
“We wanted this one bad,” Man coach Harvey Arms said. “But we’ll just have to try and come back together and see if we can’t win this last one on Friday night.”
For Tug Valley, it was a big win.
It was huge.
In beating the Double-A Hillbillies and gaining a lot of points in the WVSSAC’s computer ratings system, Panthers improved to 6-3 and will likely gain a Class A playoff bid. Tug Valley, which plays just nine games this season due to Clarksburg Notre Dame’s football team folding, will observe a bye week this coming Friday night and will open the playoffs on Nov. 15 or 16.
Man led Tug Valley 12-0 in Friday night’s game but the Panthers were able to score 20 unanswered points to get the win over the Billies.
Down eight points late in the fourth quarter, Man looked to possibly score a touchdown and game-tying two-point conversion but Tug Valley’s Caleb May intercepted a Man pass in the end zone to effectively put the win on ice.
Tug Valley trailed Man, 6-0 at halftime. The Billies’ Zack Frye scored Man’s only touchdown in the first half as he raced for a 97-yard score with 11:44 to go in the second quarter.
Man led 12-0 in the third quarter when quarterback Caleb Milton ran in from 4 yards out. The two-point conversion failed.
Tug Valley then got on the board later in the third quarter as quarterback Ethan Varney ran in from 10 yards out. Varney then passed to May on the successful two-point conversion as the Panthers trailed 12-8.
Later in the third, Varney scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed but the Panthers led 14-12.
Tug Valley padded its lead to 20-12 in the fourth quarter with Zack Savage’s 4-yard touchdown run. Again the two-point conversion failed.
The Panthers then held on for the win.
Varney had a big game for Tug Valley, competing was 11 of 26 passes for 120 yards. He ran with the ball 35 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
May had seven catches for 72 yards. Tanner Kirk had three grabs for 43 yards.
Frye rushed for 166 yards on 11 carries for the night for the Hillbillies. Cameron Frye had three carries for 41 yards, while Dylan Morris had six attempts for 22 yards.
Man quarterbacks were a combined 2 of 8 passing for 15 yards. Cameron Frye caught both passes.
The first half was sloppy for the Billies as turnovers, penalties and fumbled snaps hampered the Billies’ offense.
Tug Valley drove to the Man 42-yard line on its second possession but Varney was intercepted by Jeremiah Harless.
Later in the first quarter, a fumbled snap over Milton’s head led to an Aaron White recovery at the Man 30-yard line.
Tug Valley took the ball to the 24 but Varney was picked off by Cameron Frye at the 1-yard line. It appeared as if Frye intercepted the pass in the end zone for a touchback but the referees ruled the ball down at the 1.
Then after a 2-yard gain by Zack Frye on first down, Frye took the next handoff 97 yards for a touchdown to put Man ahead 6-0.
Tug Valley got the ball back on its own 36-yard line on its next drive and on the second snap Man’s Josh Moody intercepted a Varney pass at midfield and raced to the house for a 50-yard touchdown. The score was nullified, however, on an illegal block in the back penalty on the Billies.
That loomed large.
Man was able to regroup after the penalty and took the ball to the Tug Valley 2-yard line.
The golden opportunity for the Billies was squandered, however, after an off-sides penalty, a pair of negative plays and an incomplete pass play on a fourth-and-goal at the 8.
“We had penalty which called back the touchdown pass and later we dropped a touchdown pass,” Arms said. “Those things happen. You don’t want them do and you hope they don’t. It also happens to the guys that make millions of dollars on Sundays.”
The Panthers were then able to move the ball after the change over in downs. Thanks to Varney passes to May covering 26, 12 and 19 yards, Tug drove the pigskin to the Man 21 but a change over on downs gave the ball back to Man just before halftime.
Cameron Frye led the Man defense with seven tackles and three pass breakups. Sam Milton had six tackles and Erick Grimmett and Brock Muncy had five each. Chris Isaacs had four stops and Colton Frye three.
Zack Frye had two tackles, a pass breakup and an interception. Gavin Harvey, Josh Lambert, Xander Mullins and Quentin Moody all had two tackles. Lambert forced a fumble and Moody had a pass breakup. Jeremiah Harless had a tackle, pass breakup, interception and a fumble recovery. Josh Moody had a tackle, pass breakup and a pick. Nick Plumley had a tackle and a forced fumble Colby Woodall also had a stop.
Tug Valley improved to 7-3 all-time against Man and avenged last year’s 30-8 loss to the Billies.
The Panthers scored a pair of Class A playoff wins over Man in 2014 and 2015 by 16-12 and 38-28 margins. The two teams have played each other every year since 2012 when the series began.
Next week’s Man game at Chapmanville will also determine the Logan County championship. Both teams have wins over Logan this season.
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner or email him at email@example.com.