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 postseason road game berth. With a loss to the Tigers, it could be dicey.
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 are guaranteed to 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.
“I’m just so proud of our guys, what we did tonight is what we’ve done from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” first year Tug Valley coach Hady Ford said after the win. “We never quit, we never laid down, and we kept fighting. Come 4th quarter we really showed them what we were made of.”
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 TD 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 TDs.
May had seven catches for 72 yards. Tanner Kirk had three grabs for 43 yards.
Frye rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries for the night for the Hillbillies.
Man quarterbacks were a combined 2 of 9 passing for 20 yards.
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 touch back 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.
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.
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.
Score by quarters
MHS (7-2): 0 6 6 0 — 12
TVHS (6-3): 0 0 14 6 — 20
MHS: 97-yard run Frye (run no good)
MHS: 1-yard run Milton (run no good)
TVHS: 7-yard run Varney (Pass to May)
TVHS: 1-yard run Varney (pass no good)
TVHS: 1-yard run Savage (pass no good)
Paul Adkins is a sports reporter for HD Media. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.