Town Crier Sports Staff
Manila won the statistical battle, but came up short on the score board as Cross County squeezed by the Lions 16-14 Thursday night in junior high football action at Cherry Valley.
The Lions rolled up 300 yards of total offense compared to the Thunderbird's 250, but a pair of successful two point conversion plays proved to be the difference.
Following a short punt, Cross County took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter when tailback Rubin Hill darted 30 yards down the left sideline on the game's first play. Quarterback Jake Beasley ran in the two point conversion attempt.
Manila answered just before halftime on a 25-yard touchdown romp by quarterback Dillon Burrow. Burrow's two point conversion try fell inches short of the goal line, leaving Cross County with an 8-6 lead at the half.
"The officials made a good call on the two point conversion play in the first half," said Manila Coach Toby Doke. "Burrow's head and shoulders crossed the goal line, but the ball was just short."
Cross County drove 35 yards in six plays midway through the third quarter to increase their lead to 14-6. The Thunderbird's touchdown came on an eight yard run by Hill. Beasley provided the two point conversion run, pushing Cross County's lead to 16-6.
Landon Spain bulled in from 15 yards out to pull the Lions to within 16-12 at the 3:00 mark of the fourth quarter. Spain also provided the successful two point conversion attempt to pull the Lions to 16-14.
Manila held Cross County on downs with 1:32 remaining in the game, giving the Lions one last chance to pull out the victory. Burrow hit 4-6 passes for 39 yards while Spain added a 25-yard run, as the Lions frantically marched to the Thunderbird 16 yard line. But Burrow was sacked and the clock ran out, securing the Cross County victory.
Burrow finished 7-13 passing for 115 yards and rushed 12 times for 105 yards and one touchdown. Spain ran for 60 yards on eight carries and a score while Brian Borden added 71 all-purpose yards, including a 35-yard kickoff return. Tracey Wade Reinhart caught two passes for 38 yards while Brent Ray snared one pass for 16 yards.
Hill finished with 86 yards rushing to lead the Thunderbirds while Beasley passed for 54 yards.
"Our kids fought hard all night, but we made too many mistakes, especially in the first half," said Doke. "Shawn McCallie made a great play, causing a fumble and recovering it to start the second half, but we didn't take advantage and went three and out. Cross County scored on their next possession. Our defense came up big late in the game to give us a chance, but we had to drive 80 yards in 1:30 with no time outs. Our offense executed well on the last drive, but we ran out of time. I told our kids we were a mile away after the first game, but only a few inches after this game. We have improved and if we can close that gap, we will win some football games."
The Lions will return to action Thursday night when they travel to Newark to take on Cedar Ridge at 7 p.m.