Manila may not have won their first season opener in 30 years, but the Lions won the praise of their first year Head Coach Toby Doke. "I am very, very proud of this group of young men," said Doke. "They played their hearts out and gave it all they had," said Doke.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Gosnell proved too tough as the Pirates raced to a 32-0 halftime lead en rout to a 38-8 victory Thursday night in junior high football action at Gosnell.
Gosnell stunned Manila on the opening kickoff when Aaron Anderson fielded the ball on his own 30 yard line and sprinted 70 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Pirates an early 6-0 lead. Isaiah Love's two point conversion run put Gosnell up 8-0 with 7:35 left in the opening quarter.
Manila's first play from scrimmage resulted in an eight yard run by quarterback Blake Wheeler. Cody Webb put the Lions in Pirate territory with a six yard scamper before the Lions bogged down and were forced to punt. Wheeler nailed a 34 yard kick that pinned the Pirates deep at their own 10 yard line. But Gosnell wasted no time as running back Tyler Sargent found the seam over left guard and rambled 90 yards for the score with 2:44 left in the first quarter. Love's two point pass to Kennon Mathis pushed the Pirate lead to 16-0.
The Lions were unable to move the ball on their next possession and Gosnell took over on downs at the Lion 48 yard line. Gosnell moved the ball to the Lion 15 yard line where Anderson found a hole on the right side of the offensive line and powered his way into the end zone for another Pirate score. Love again connected on the two point pass, this time to Brad Shearin, giving Gosnell a 24-0 lead with 7:11 left in the first half.
Manila took the ensuing kickoff and worked their way into Gosnell territory once again, only to lose the ball on a fumble at the Pirate 39 yard line. The Pirates wasted no time in taking advantage of the Lion turnover as fullback C.J. Lee bounced off a wall of would be tacklers and scooted 61 yards down the left sideline for another Pirate score. Love's two point run pushed the Pirate lead to 32-0 with 3:53 left in the first half.
The Lions finally got untracked as they took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 54 yards for their first score of the season. Wheeler found wide receiver Seth Towles on a slant pattern and the freshman took it 32 yards for the Lion touchdown. Wheeler connected with Josh Miles for the two point conversion pass, cutting the Gosnell lead to 32-8 with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
The Pirates tacked on one more score when Kalan Leaks scored on a 55 yard touchdown run with 6:58 left in the game to put Gosnell up 38-8. The two point conversion failed.
Wheeler finished the night with 63 yards rushing on 19 carries. The freshman connected on 7-13 passes for 64 yards and one touchdown. Miles led Manila in receiving with five catches for 26 yards. Towles had one catch for 32 yards and a score while Dustin Hill snared one pass for six yards. Webb finished the night with 11 carries for 56 yards while Miles had two carries for eight yards. The Lions suffered three turnovers on the night.
"Our kids are new at this and the only way I know to get better is to let them get out there and play," said Doke. "I don't think any of our kids quit. It's a learning process and we will go through some growing pains. But we will get over that hump eventually and we will be a good ball club. We have some kids that are talented and they need to go through an off season program. I think once we hit the weights and get stronger we will have a chance to be successful. What these kids are doing is not easy. It takes some guts and character to do what they are doing. But they will be fine. They have just never played the game before," said Doke.
"I thought all of our kids laid it on the line," continued Doke. "Cody Webb was a fierce competitor and he runs the ball extremely hard. Blake Wheeler played a fine game at quarterback. Chris Adamson, our mike linebacker, made some big hits out there. He understands you have to be physical. I am just real proud of all of our kids," concluded Doke.
The Lions will return to action Thursday night when they travel to Cross County to face the Thunderbirds. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.