Manchester defends home turf with 24-16 win over Jefferson Township –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
It took five weeks but the Manchester Greyhounds varsity football team finally has a notch in the win column as the Hounds held off a late rally by the Jefferson Township Broncos last Friday night to claim a 24-16 victory in front of the home faithful at Greyhound Stadium.
The Hounds, who lost in overtime to the Broncos on the road last season, held a 24-0 lead but had to hold off the hard-charging Broncos, who scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns.
“It is huge for our guys to get this first win,” said Manchester head coach Dustin Cook, who got the obligatory Gatorade bath after the game. “All of the hard work they have been putting into practice was able to show up in the win column Friday night. I thought our guys did a great job on both sides of the ball and on special teams to get a great team victory.”
The game certainly started well as a perfectly executed onside kick by MHS kicker Trent Dryden was recovered by the Hounds’ Avery Reed, setting up the home team’s offense on the Bronco 45. Manchester held the ball for nine plays and drove to the one-yard line, where they were stopped on fourth down, but that change in field position was soon to be a factor.
On the Broncos’ first play from scrimmage from their own one, running back Kristopher Benson was hauled down in the end zone by Reed for the safety that gave the Hounds a 2-0 lead with 6:41 left in the first quarter. On the ensuing punt by Jefferson, the Hounds’ Marcus Neeley made a nice return, giving Manchester the ball at the Bronco 30. After losing one touchdown to a holding penalty, the Hounds found pay dirt when Neeley ran it in from 10 yards out and the Patrick Baldwin two-point conversion run put the home side up 10-0.
The Hounds had another successful onside kick but turned the ball over on downs, and the next Jefferson drive was snuffed out by a Cody Thatcher quarterback sack on the final play of the first quarter. That forced a Bronco punt to open the second period, and the Hounds took advantage, going 54 yards in 10 plays, aided by a 21-yard run by Neeley and a 14-yard pass from Neeley to wideout Nick Huron. On fourth and goal from the Jefferson 7, Neeley rolled right, then lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone, into the waiting arms of receiver Jase Thatcher for the touchdown. Neeley took care of the two-point try and the Hounds had their biggest lead of 20-16, an advantage of 18-0 with 5:55 to play in the first half.
On the next Bronco possession, the Hounds got an interception by Jacob Calvert on a pass tipped by Neeley, but couldn’t capitalize as they fumbled the ball right back to Jefferson. The Broncs turned the ball over on downs, but again the Hounds were gracious in returning possession as a Neeley pass was picked off by Jefferson’s T’euvyn Page. Returning the favor, Neeley intercepted a pass on the final play of an action-packed first half that saw the Hounds go the intermission still holding the 18-0 lead.
The second half began with the two teams exchanging punts, with the second of those giving the Hounds the ball at the Jefferson 41. Seven plays later, Manchester was on the board again on a another fourth down play as Neeley passed 14 yards to Nick Woolard for the score. The two-point try was stopped, leaving the Greyhounds in front 24-0.
The Manchester defense created yet another opportunity on the next bronco possession when Cody Thatcher recovered a Thomas Herron fumble, but the offense stalled after six plays and turned the ball back over on downs as the fourth quarter began. This time the Broncos took advantage as Herron found receiver Colbert Bosen wide open down the middle of the field for a 40-yard scoring strike. A two-point pass to Page made the score 24-8 with 8:07 left in the game.
Needing to run some clock to protect their lead, the Manchester offense went three-and-out, punting the ball away and the Broncos took over on their own 31. Eight plays later, the combination of Herron to Bosen struck again, this time from 47 yards out and the two-point conversion suddenly made things very interesting as it had turned into a one-possession game at 24-16 with just 1:19 remaining.
The Hounds took over on their own 46 after the Jefferson onside kick attempt was recovered by Shaun Gould. Two running plays netted very little, but forced the Broncos to use their final two timeouts. A third down run by Neeley did not produce a first down, but did produce a holding penalty on the Greyhounds. If Jefferson declined the penalty, they would have gotten the ball back with about 45 seconds left, but they accepted the infraction, giving the Hounds another play which ran the clock down to under five seconds. A running play by Neeley gobbled that time up and the Greyhounds could celebrate victory number one of 2016, holding off the Broncos 24-16.
“Hopefully this win will give us some of the confidence and boost that we need to continue playing good football and give ourselves a chance this week as well,” said Coach Cook.
This week brings a long road trip for the Greyhounds on Friday night as they travel to Bradford, Ohio to face off with the Railroaders in a 7:30 p.m. kick off, the first of two road games after three weeks on the home turf.
JTHS 0 0 0 16 –16
MHS 10 8 6 0 – 24
MHS- Benson tacked in end zone for safety
MHS- Neeley 10 yd. Run (P. Baldwin conversion run)
MHS- J. Thatcher 7 yd. pass from Neeley (Neeley conversion run)
MHS- Woolard 14 yd. pass from Neeley (conversion failed)
JTHS- Bosen 40 yd. pass from Herron (conversion pass to Page)
JTHS- Bosen 47-yd. pass from Herron (conversion pass to White)