Last Friday night, Aug. 22, was certainly one of the most anticipated sports nights that Adams County had seen in quite some time. For the first time in 35 years, two varsity football squads from West Union and Manchester met on the gridiron and although the game was just an exhibition, an OHSAA Foundation Game, the atmosphere was still electric, with a crowd estimated at over 800 people filling the bleachers and the hill overlooking Greyhound Stadium to be part of this historic event.
“The football game on Friday evening was a great event for our county,” said West Union head coach Steve Darby, a veteran leader from the county’s football wars of decades past. “We can only hope that it was just the beginning of great things to come. The crowd was tremendous, loud, and large.”
As far as the game itself, the outcome was never really in doubt as the more experienced Greyhounds scored early and often on their way to handing their guests from the county seat a 46-0 defeat. The Hounds dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, with their defense not allowing a West Union first down until the final series of the game when both teams were getting JV players some game experience.
“We were able to see a lot of positive things as the season is about to begin,” said Manchester’s first-year head coach Dustin Cook. “I thought our offensive line did a fantastic job of controlling the line of scrimmage and we were also fortunate enough to spread the ball around to all of our skill kids to let them get some valuable experience.”
“I thought that overall we played pretty well, however, there are still areas that need to be improved as the season starts.”
The tone of the game was likely set in the first offensive series. West Union took the opening kickoff and started at their own 39, but only gained two yards in three plays. A bad snap on the punt attempt made matters worse, turning the ball over to Manchester, but the Dragons defense forced a fumble and recovered to bring their offense out once more. Another three and out and the Dragons were punting again, giving the Hounds possession at their own 39.
From there it took just two plays for the Greyhounds to find pay dirt as Bryan Young took a hand off around the right end and scooted 71 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown. Jordan Franklin added the extra point and the Hounds were up 7-0.
After the West Union offense produced another three and out and punt, the Hounds quickly struck again, going 66 yards in two plays, both runs by quarterback Jordan Freeman, On the first play from scrimmage, Freeman went 29 yards and then on the next play, 37 yards for the score. Another Franklin extra point made it 14-0 with 3:13 still left in the first quarter.
Neither side could score on their next possession and moving into the second quarter, Mother Nature decided to give everyone a break. Lightning was spotted on the horizon, forcing the obligatory 30-minute stoppage that sent both squads back to the locker room.
After the unscheduled break, Manchester’s Arturo Hernandez took over the action, first recovering a West Union fumble and then hauling in a 25-yard touchdown pass from a scrambling Freeman, Hernandez leaping over the West Union defender in the corner of the end zone. A bad snap ruined the extra point but left the Hounds on top now 20-0.
On the Dragons’ next possession, quarterback Tyler Rothwell’s first pass attempt of the game was picked off by Manchester’s Chase Darnell, who returned the interception all the way for a touchdown, that was then called back by penalty. That was only a temporary setback for the Hounds, however, as they proceeded to travel 76 yards in six plays for another score, aided by a big 52-yard scamper by running back Brandon Saunders. The score came when Freeman found Daniel Hernandez wide open in the flat and Hernandez took the pass to the house for a 29-yard TD. The extra point hit off the upright but the home side was making a statement, now leading 26-0 with five minutes still to go in the first half.
The Greyhounds extended that lead to 33-0 at the break on a touchdown run by Saunders, set up by a nice 38-yard run around left end by Leevi Francis.
After the intermission, a new OHSAA rule went into effect. Whenever one team has a lead of 30 points or more, the game is played with a running clock, which made the second half of this contest cruise along much quicker than the weather-hampered first half. The Dragons began the third quarter by recovering an onside kick but their offense again went nowhere and the Hounds actually scored twice on their first possession of the half.
The first touchdown was a Freeman run that was called back by a holding penalty, so three plays later Francis ran it in to give the Hounds a 39-0 advantage. As the third period quickly ran down, both coaches went to their backups in order to get them a chance to be part of the night’s action.
The final score of the evening came with 8:18 left in the fourth quarter when Manchester freshman Mason Bilyeu took a hand off from backup QB Bryan Young and went 20 yards around left end and got just inside the pylon for the touchdown. Franklin’s extra point made the score 46-0.
The Dragons got their best opportunity to score on their last possession of the night when a long run by Trevor Neal set them up with a first and goal situation. The Manchester backup defense was up to the task however and put up a goal line stand that preserved the team’s shutout as time ran out in the game.
“This was the first varsity experience for most of our team and the final result showed how important that experience really is,” said Coach Darby. “The Manchester coaches did a great job of preparing their team and we wish them the best of luck the rest of the season. All of these young men, from both teams, make up a family of athletes that should bring friendship and healthy competition for years to come.”
The Greyhounds now set their sights on their regular season opener which will come this Friday night on the road at Green High School in Franklin Furnace.
“The players and staff are very excited to get the season started on Friday night,” said Coach Cook. “We know that Green will be well prepared and ready to go so we need to make sure that we are getting better as a team day in and day out at practice this week. We want to continue to grow as a team as the season progresses and that starts with Week 1.”
The Dragons will be back in action in two weeks, traveling to Milford for a noon kickoff.
Before Friday night’s game and at halftime, the two schools took time to recognize some of the men who were trailblazers of football in the county and alumni of the gridiron from both sides. On hand and recognized from Manchester were Jack Collins, Gary Beasley, Bill Evans, Mike Cluxton, and Jeff Henson. From West Union, honored were Jeff Purdin, Doug Hoying, Todd Thatcher, Rex Ross, Dana Barr, Brett Osman, Darin Johnson, Randy Dunkin, Jeff Phelps, Tim Phelps, and Walt Yeager.
West Union 0 0 0 0 —0
Manchester 14 19 6 7 —46
MHS- Young 71-yd. run (Franklin kick)
MHS- Freeman 37-yd. run (Franklin kick)
MHS- A. Hernandez 25-yd. pass from Freeman (kick failed)
MHS- D. Hernandez 29-yd. pass from Freeman (kick failed)
MHS- Saunders 11-yd. run (Franklin kick)
MHS-Francis 1-yd. run (kick failed)
MHS- Bilyeu 20-yd. run (Franklin kick)