Town Crier Sports Staff
Manila's young Lions continued to fight and battle but once again came up short as Greene County Tech came away with a 28-6 victory in junior high football action Thursday night at Paragould.
For the third straight week, the Lions got burned early for a touchdown. Greene County Tech's Caleb Hartwig scampered 54 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage before being tackled at the Lion four yard line. Kelsey Wooten scored on the next play, giving the Eagles a quick 6-0 lead. Lance Williams ran in the two point conversion as the Eagles led 8-0 only 38 seconds into the game.
Manila's first possession ended when Tech's T.J. Underwood picked off a Blake Wheeler pass at the Manila 38 yard line. It took the Eagles just four plays to score again, giving Tech a 14-0 lead with 4:41 left in the first quarter. Wooten's 31-yard run proved to be the big play of the drive. Kyle Davis ran in the two point conversion to push the Tech lead to 16-0.
Manila was unable to get their offense untracked as the Lions were forced to punt, giving the Eagles the ball back with 1:50 left in the first period. The Eagles took the ball and marched their way methodically down the field before fumbling at the Manila 21 yard line. Dexter Greene recovered the fumble by Tech quarterback Tyler Woodridge, stopping the Eagle threat.
The Lions were unable to move the ball, and were forced to punt again. Tech's Tyler Fletcher fielded the ball at midfield and returned the ball 22 yards to the Manila 28 yard line. After a two yard pickup by Woodridge, Hartwig burst 26 yards up the middle, giving Tech a 22-0 lead with 2:34 left in the first half.
Hartwig picked off another Wheeler pass at the Manila 25 yard line with 1:09 left in the half, but the Lions defense stiffened, and time ran out on the Eagles at the Manila 14 yard line.
The two teams traded possessions to start the third quarter, before a Blake Wheeler punt was returned 47 yards for a touchdown by Tech's Seth Williams. The score was called back however, as Tech was penalized for a block in the back. The Lion defense tightened their belts once again, and after a P.J. Underwood pass fell incomplete, Manila took over at the Tech 47 yard line with 1:17 left in the third quarter.
The Lions mounted their only touchdown drive of the game, going 47 yards in seven plays. Wheeler had a 20 yard run on the drive and also hooked up with split end Dustin Hill on a 31 yard pass, setting up a first down at the Tech 12 yard line. Wheeler took the Lions home with a seven yard touchdown run with 5:41 left in the third quarter to cut the Tech lead to 22-6. The two point conversion play failed.
Tech got on the board one last time when Kyle Davis found Tyler Fletcher behind the Lion defense for a 27 yard touchdown strike with 2:59 left in the game, giving Tech the 28-6 victory.
"I thought tonight was the first night a team stopped us offensively without us stopping ourselves," said Manila Head Coach Toby Doke. "They did a good job defensively and I give them a lot of credit. I felt like we didn't do much offensively and that put us in a bind defensively. I think if we could have hit some passes we could have loosened their defense up and got some scores, but we couldn't get the ball to our receivers. We are still giving up big plays early in the game, and that comes from lack of experience. We are a young football game and we are still taking poor angles to the ball. That's something we will get better with over time. I thought we had some kids that came off the bench tonight on defense that showed me some things, especially Briar Moore. Chris Adamson continues to play tough football. No one matches his toughness on our football team. He doesn't back down from anyone, and that's what it takes to be a good football player."
"Our kids will get there, but the only way is through working in the weight room and getting more repetitions on the field," continued Doke. "Every team we play has played football for a while and they have had two or three years of off-season training. I am a winner and I hate to lose, and so do the kids. They are right there, if we can get some breaks. So far this season, we haven't won a coin toss and haven't been able to start a game off on offense. But you have to make your own breaks."
Tech finished the night with 225 yards rushing on 29 carries to go along with 27 yards through the air, giving the Eagles 247 yards of total offense.
Hartwig led Tech in rushing with six carries for 110 yards and one touchdown. Wooten carried the ball five time for 69 yards and a score while Davis had five carries for 21 yards. Woodridge finished with 14 yards on five carries. Williams had three carries for five yards and a touchdown while Nick Rosten had three carries for five yards. Underwood was 0-1 through the air while Davis finished 1-1 for 27 yards. The Eagles had one turnover on the night.
Manila was held to a net of nine yards rushing on 15 carries, led by Blake Wheeler's 26 yards on six totes. Wheeler finished the night 3-7 passing for 42 yards and two interceptions. Jared Burkes came off the bench and was 0-2 through the air with one interception. The Lions finished the night with four turnovers.
As of press time, it was still unknown whether Manila would play this week. The Lions are working on a game with Marked Tree for Thursday night. The next scheduled game is Saturday, Sept. 30, against Trumann at 9 a.m.