Lions celebrate home opener with 13-6 win over Rector
Rumbling noises and flashing lights filled the dark sky over Manila Friday night, but it wasn't a storm on the horizon, it was the sights and sounds of the first varsity football game in over 30 years that had the overflow crowd on their feet, as the Lion faithful cheered their hometown heroes a thrilling 13-6 come from behind victory over the Rector Cougars.
High school football finally arrived in the small town in Mississippi County, and the results of the inaugural game couldn't have been better for the home folks.
For the longest, it seemed the home team would not get on the scoreboard, but when junior running back John Wilbanks bolted around left end and raced 62 yards untouched into the end zone, the Lions had their first touchdown of the season. Wilbanks' touchdown run at the 5:07 mark of the third quarter tied the score at 6-6, and when senior place kicker Frankie Cowgill tacked on the point after, the Lions held a 7-6 edge.
"The offensive line did a great job blocking and gave me the space I needed to go all the way," said Wilbanks. "I was just praying that I would get in the open and that's what happened. It's a great feeling."
The Cougars scored the only points of the first half at the 1:33 mark of the opening period with an 18 yard scamper by running back Dalton Shaw. Shaw's touchdown run capped a seven play, 60 yard drive. Rector quarterback Logan Buck connected on a 23 yard strike to James Bradshaw to move the Cougars into Lion territory at the 37 yard line. Seth Parsley rambled 18 yards on a reverse two plays later, moving the ball to the Lion 18 yard line. Following two incomplete passes, Shaw darted into the end zone for the 6-0 Cougar lead. The point after attempt was blocked.
Manila drove into Rector territory four times in the first half but came away empty as the Lions lost a pair of fumbles and had a 44 yard field goal attempt blocked. The first half ended with the Cougars ahead 6-0.
After a scoreless third quarter, Rector began the final period facing a fourth and two at their own 45 yard line. But the Lion defense stonewalled Shaw, giving the Lions excellent field position. Manila took over and began their second and final scoring drive of the game with a nine yard run by Brian Borden at the 9:08 mark of the fourth quarter. Cowgill darted 21 yards on the next play to give the Lions a first down. A face mask penalty moved the ball to the Rector 10 yard line, and after a procedure penalty moved the ball back five yards, Cowgill scrambled the final 15 yards into the end zone to give the Lions a 13-6 lead with 7:34 left in the game. The point after attempt was no good, leaving the Lions with a seven point lead.
Rector had one last chance to win the game, starting their final drive from their own 30 yard line. Senior quarterback Logan Buck got the Cougars started with an 11 yard scamper. Shaw darted eight more yards to push the ball to midfield with under 6:00 to play. Two more Shaw runs gained 15 more yards as the Cougars gained a first down at the Manila 33 yard line. Buck then connected on a 25 yard strike to senior wide receiver Agust Lopez, giving Rector a first down at the Lion 11 yard line with less than 2:00 remaining.
The Lion defense rose to the occasion once again, dropping Buck for a five yard loss on first down. After two incompletions by Buck, the Cougars faced fourth down from the Manila 16 with under a minute to go. Rector's last gasp attempt to win the game ended when Manila's Seth Towles sacked Buck for a six yard loss to secure the victory for the Lions, setting off a wild celebration from the Manila faithful.
"I am really at a loss for words," said Manila Coach Toby Doke. "We knew this would be a tough, close game, and I am just thrilled that we were able to pull out the win, not only for the kids but for our fans as well. Everyone has worked so hard for this moment. We made a lot of mistakes tonight but our kids found a way to win and I couldn't be more proud of them. We got our first win on a Friday night and this is huge for our program."
"I feel great about the win tonight," said Manila quarterback Josh Miles. "It's just hard to put into words how I feel. We were able to execute both offensively and defensively and that's why we were able to win the game."
Manila rolled up 269 yards of total offense, including 171 on the ground. Wilbanks led the Lions with 87 yards on seven carries. Cowgill finished the night with 47 yards on four totes while Steven Green carried five times for 25 yards. Cody Webb also picked up 25 yards on three carries while Borden finished the night with nine yards.
Miles completed 11 of 24 passes for 98 yards. LaQuendell Miles led all receivers with four catches for 27 yards. Tracey Reinhart grabbed one reception for 20 yards while Cowgill had two receptions for 12 yards. Webb snared one pass for 18 yards, Wilbanks had one catch for nine yards and junior receiver Spencer Cain caught one pass for eight yards. Green grabbed one pass for four yards.
Rector totaled 179 yards of total offense, with 120 coming via the rush. Shaw led the way with 78 yards on 13 carries. Buck completed 4-16 passes for 59 yards while Lopez grabbed two receptions for 36 yards to lead the Cougars in receiving.
Manila will hit the gridiron Friday night when they host Westside in a 7:30 kickoff.