Story by Mark Carpenter –
Photo by John Sowards –
With an opportunity to finish at .500 for the season, the Manchester Greyhound football squad took to the turf at Greyhound Stadium on Friday, Oct. 27, hosting the Eastern Pike Eagles in the season finale for both teams. Things didn’t quite go as planned on Senior Night for the Hounds as the visiting Eagles used a powerful running game led by junior Luke Spencer to race to a 42-7 halftime lead and eventually downed the Hounds by a final count of 64-13.
The two scores for Manchester came on a Shaun Gould to Avery Reed touchdown pass in the first quarter and a six-yard scoring run by Gould in the third period of play, as the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage from start to finish, dropping the Hounds to 4-6 on the season, a big improvement over last year’s 1-9 mark and the second time in head coach Dustin Cook’s tenure that the Greyhounds have gone 4-6.
“As for the game, it didn’t quite go as planned as we ran up against a very good football team,” said Coach Cook. “We just weren’t quite able to make enough plays.”
Even with the disappointing defeat, the night was to honor the seven Manchester seniors, who were playing the final game of their high school careers-Marcus Neeley, Nick Woolard, Luke Thompson, Mason Bilyeu, Dakotah Mingee, Trent Dryden, and Jonathan Sowards.
“Our seniors were truly a very special group of young men, “said Cook. “They put in a lot of time over the last four years and for many of them, they were starters very early on in their careers. To see all of them grow as players and more importantly as young men is an amazing thing for a coach. I could not be any more proud of the young men they have become and I expect big things from them in their future endeavors. They will be missed by our program.”
Coach Cook spoke to The Defender about each of the seven departing seniors.
Marcus Neeley: “Marcus started games in all four of his high school years. He is a young man that we could depend on as a staff and he always was willing to do what was best for the team over his own personal accolades. His sophomore year he broke his hand in the preseason but battled back to be able to start on the offensive side of the ball for us. As a junior Marcus was asked to change positions on the offensive side and move to quarterback, which he had never played before, and without batting an eye he was there to give it his all. His senior year he was asked to move to tight end where we could utilize his physicality and also play linebacker on defense. Marcus was an outstanding leader for us and we will truly miss him.”
Nick Woolard: “ A lot like Marcus, Nick was asked to do many different things over the course of his high school career. On the offensive side of the ball Nick was always a kid with a lot of promise. He played wide receiver his freshman and sophomore years before moving to quarterback for some of his junior year. He was definitely a kid that had the potential to break a big play with every touch of the ball. His senior year he really shined as a running back for us. I couldn’t have been happier for him and the senior year that he had, not just as a running back but as well as a key in our defensive backfield, as well as an outstanding kick returner. Every time Nick touched the ball there was a chance that he was going to take it to the house. It was great to see Nick have fun and love the game, especially his senior year.”
Luke Thompson: “Luke Thompson came out to play football his sophomore year. As a sophomore, Luke found his love for the game. He continued to improve each week. As a junior, Luke really matured into a good player for us. He gave us great minutes on the defensive side of the football. He was a kid that loved football and was an outstanding teammate. As a senior, Luke was outstanding on both sides of the ball. Like his fellow seniors, Luke was very unselfish and always did what was best for the team with everything he had.”
Mason Bilyeu: “Mason battled back after a devastating ankle injury that sidelined him his junior year. Mason was an impact player from day one for us as a program. As a freshman, Mason started on the defensive side of the ball. His sophomore year Mason played a big role for us offensively as a wide receiver. His junior year he was going to be a big focal point on both sides of the ball, but unfortunately Mason was sidelined before the season with an ankle injury. As a senior Mason worked really hard and worked his way back as a two-way starter. He did an outstanding job for us all year in the backfield as well as on the defensive side of the ball. Mason is one that was looked up to in the locker room by his teammates and will definitely be missed next year.”
Dakotah Mingee: “Dakotah was a senior that loved playing football. He worked extremely hard day in and day out to get better every day. As a junior, he battled on the offensive and defensive line for us any time his number was called. He was always ready to play. As a senior, Dakotah continued to give us everything he had in the trenches as well as outstanding performances on special teams. Dakotah was a very selfless teammate that always put the team first.”
Trent Dryden: “Trent was another senior that started his career as a sophomore. From that moment on, Trent continued to get better and better as an offensive linemen. Over the last three years Trent has been a huge reason why we have been able to be so successful on offense. As a senior ,Trent was a two-way starter for us and he also had an outstanding year at defensive end, along with playing offensive line. Trent also was our kicker. He did an outstanding job kicking our PAT’s as well as kicking off for us. Trent is a great kid and a great teammate.”
Jonathan Sowards: “ Johnny battled through injuries early in his career before also becoming a huge part of our offensive line. From day one, Johnny showed a lot of promise through his hard work and dedication to the game. He was a big part of our success up front and also played a huge role on the defensive side of the ball his senior year. Johnny is a kid that you love to be around and was an outstanding teammate and player for us over the last four years.”