MAN — Just a few weeks ago, the Man High School football team was undefeated and headed to a possible home playoff berth.
The Hillbillies were ranked as high as No. 5 in the state in Class AA.
Then Man lost 7-0 to Point Pleasant in a televised game, and followed that up with a disappointing 20-12 defeat at Class A Tug Valley.
Last week, Man needed a win over Chapmanville just to make it to the playoffs and earn a postseason bid of any kind.
The Billies accomplished that goal, downing the Tigers 33-8 to close out the regular season with an 8-2 record.
Man nailed down the No. 13 ranking and find itself in a tough first-round playoff game on Friday night at No. 4 Bluefield (9-1).
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bluefield’s historic Mitchell Stadium.
The Billies will have their hands full against the tradition-rich Beavers, which have played well all season. Bluefield finished off its regular season last week at home in a 48-15 win over Beckley Woodrow Wilson.
Man coach Harvey Arms said his team is matched up against a tough opponent. For Man, it’s the school’s 20th overall playoff berth, eighth under coach Arms and first one in four years.
“Making the playoffs is great for us,” Arms said. “We started back in Double-A four years ago and we were the smallest Double-A team in the state. It’s taken us four years but we finally made it to the playoffs.”
Bluefield closed out the season on an eight-game winning streak. The only blemish was a Week 3 loss at Lord Botetourt High School out of Virginia in a 20-14 setback.
The Beavers won 41-27 over in-town rival Graham, Virginia, then took a 45-16 victory at Princeton before the loss to the Virginia team.
Since, Bluefield has scored wins over Richlands, Virginia (52-38), Point Pleasant (49-14), PikeView (63-14), Tazewell, Virginia (35-7), Oak Hill (41-13), James Monroe (49-12) and Beckley.
The Beavers have several state championships to their credit. Last year, Bluefield finished as state runners-up to Fairmont, falling 23-13 to the Polar Bears in Wheeling.
Bluefield was most recently Class AA state champions in 2017, winning 29-19 over Fairmont.
“Year after year, they are at the top of Double-A,” Arms said of the Beavers. “At the time of the playoffs they are usually ranked high and usually go a long way. We know that it’s going to be a tough opponent but we’ll just have to prepare and battle and play as hard as we possibly can play and go out and make sure we compete and get the victory.”
The Beavers started last week’s game with the Flying Eagles with a bang as Juwaun Green took the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.
Bluefield has an explosive offense with a lot of weapons.
JJ Davis ran for 182 yards and three touchdowns on six carries last week. Quarterback Carson Deeb connected on six of nine passes for 115 yards as the Beavers jumped out to a 48-0 lead on Beckley.
Gov. Jim Justice was on hand to watch last week’s game.
“We started the season with the governor coming. We ended the regular season with the governor coming. It’s been a neat season,” Bluefield coach Fred Simon told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “We did what we had to do to win. We scored quick and early, which I thought was great, and put the game out of reach. I’m just proud of (the team), proud of what they’ve done all season long. Defensively, we made a couple of adjustments in what they were doing, with that double-tight (offensive formation). They did a good job trying to keep the ball away from us. I thought they had a good game plan.”
Davis scored on a pair of 51-yard TD runs for Bluefield. A 24-yard interception return by Bluefield’s Ryker Brown later made it a 41-0 ballgame.
Bluefield outgained Beckley 329-292 in yards of total offense.
The Beavers also have a fine kicker in Kaulin Parris, the school’s all-time kicking leader.
Arms said containing Bluefield’s speed will be key for Man’s defense.
“Their speed is their big weapon,” he said. “We played them two years ago and three years ago and the trouble that we had with them was that they were just real quick. They have good speed and they can score quickly. That puts stress on your defense. You have to be assignment ready and you can’t make any mistakes.”
Man is led by senior QB Caleb Milton, who is 48 of 99 passing for 977 yards this season with eight TDs and five interceptions. He did not play last week as Arms elected to start Jeremiah Harless.
Zack Frye leads Man’s balanced and deep rushing attack with 74 rushes for 595 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
Freshman Josh Moody has 528 yards on the ground this season on 60 carries and has reached the end zone 10 times.
Cameron Frye has 61 rushes for 515 yards and three touchdowns.
Nick Plumley has another 264 yards on 41 carries and five scores. Dylan Morris has 142 yards and a TD.
Quentin Moody and Sam Milton are Man’s top two receivers. Both have 12 catches, Moody for 364 yards and Milton for 327. Moody has four touchdowns and Milton two.
Cameron Frye has 12 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Erick Grimmett is Man’s leading tackler on defense with 80 stops and an interception.
Zack Frye has 67 tackles and three picks. Brock Muncy has 62 tackles and one interception. Sam Milton has 60 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a pick and a blocked punt.
Quentin Moody has 41 tackles and two interceptions. Plumley has 37 tackles. 2.5 sacks, a safety and two forced fumbles. Colton Frye has contributed 35 tackles on the season. Harless has 33 tackles and a pick.
Man last made it to the playoffs in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, dropping a pair of first-round road games to Tug Valley when the Billies were a Class A school.
Man last advanced to the Wheeling Super Six in 2009 as the Billies lost 27-7 to Weirton Madonna in the Class A state championship game.
Arms said Man has no real major injuries heading into the clash.
“I think we’re OK. We left last week’s ballgame in good shape,” he said. “We just have to get through this week and be ready to play.”
LAST MEETINGS: The last time Man and Bluefield met was in the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the Beavers winning 24-21 in ’16 and 49-7 in ’17.
Back in 2002, Bluefield won 45-12 over Man. The 2002 season was the first at Man High School for head coach Harvey Arms.
Arms took over that year from outgoing coach Chuck Poston.
Arms is now in his 18th season with the Hillbillies.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Bluefield leads 8-1 in the all-time series with Man.
The lone Man victory was in 1969, former head coach Tootie Carter’s inaugural season, as the Billies won 14-12 at Bluefield.
Carter coached Man from 1969-1998, leading the Hillbillies to Class AA state championship game berths in 1977, 1980 and 1984.
The Beavers took a pair of playoff wins over Man in 1997 with a 27-7 victory, and in 1992 in a 17-0 win.
Other Logan County football teams have some history against the Beavers as well.
Chapmanville Regional, playing its first season of football in 2007 after the new school was built, lost 41-18 at Bluefield in a Class AA first-round playoff game. To date, that’s the only time Chapmanville and Bluefield have played.
Logan is 8-11 against Bluefield all-time, losing 28-7 at Bluefield in the last meeting between the two schools in 1990.
MITCHELL STADIUM NATION’S BEST: Bluefield’s Mitchell Stadium has a long and storied history.
The 10,000-seat-stadium, which serves as the home football field for both Bluefield High School and Graham High School in Virginia, goes back to 1935, has been the site for many big games.
Mitchell Stadium, however, was in the news in recent days.
On Nov. 4, Mitchell Stadium was selected as “America’s Best High School Football Stadium” in a poll conducted by USA Today.
A total of 16 stadiums located throughout the United States were in the running in the bracket-type poll.
In the final poll, Mitchell Stadium bested R.R. Jones Stadium in El Paso, Texas, grabbing 60 percent of the votes. Mitchell Stadium had 2.1 million votes to R.R. Jones’ 1.5 million.
“This victory is a result of the loyalty and dedication of thousands of present and past residents, family, and friends of the two Virginias, who showed their love for Mitchell Stadium by continuously casting votes on its behalf,” Bluefield, West Virginia, mayor Ron Martin told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Gov. Jim Justice arrived at last Friday’s Bluefield game at Mitchell Stadium soon after the kickoff. He issued a proclamation at halftime declaring Nov. 8, 2019 as “Mitchell Stadium Day.”
“So many people enjoy this beautiful facility,” Justice told the Bluefield paper. “I could never be more congratulatory. It will never be taken away from you.”
Paul Adkins is the sports editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Playoff Friday Night
What: No. 13 Man (8-2) at No. 4 Bluefield (9-1)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mitchell Stadium, Bluefield, W.Va.
Surface: Field Turf
First meeting: Bluefield won 33-0 in 1963
Last meeting: Bluefield won 49-7 in 2017
All-time series: Bluefield leads 8-1
Man vs. Bluefield
All-Time Series (Bluefield leads 8-1):
2017: Bluefield 49, Man 7
2016: Bluefield 24, Man 21
2002: Bluefield 45, Man 12
2001: Bluefield 69, Man 14
1997: Bluefield 27, Man 7 (Playoff game at Bluefield)
1992: Bluefield 17, Man 0 (Playoff game at Bluefield)
1969: Man 14, Bluefield 12
1968: Bluefield 34, Man 0
1963: Bluefield 33, Man 0