Missed opportunities cost Manila Jr. Lions

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Lion Zach Reinhart interception return for 42 yard touchdown against Harrisburg Hornets on Thursday at Manila. (photo provided)

Manila had more than one opportunity for victory in Thursday night's home opener against Harrisburg, but couldn't find the end zone when it counted most, allowing the Junior Hornets to leave town with a hard fought 18-12 win.

The loss was a heartbreaker for the Lions, who led on two different occasions before watching the Hornets come from behind to snag a crucial conference victory.

The two teams battled to a 6-6 halftime stalemate before Manila grabbed the lead with a touchdown midway through the third period. Lion quarterback Sam Hubbard sprinted 40 yards for the go-ahead score at the 5:41 mark, but Manila failed to convert the two point play, leaving the Lions with a 12-6 lead.

The Hornets quickly answered on their next possession when Hubbard's counterpart, Marcus Smith, connected with freshman wide receiver Brandon Mross on a 71-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 12-12 with 4:49 left in the third period. Smith's two point conversion pass fell incomplete.

Harrisburg's Landon Meilke (1) makes touchdown saving tackle on Lion quarterback Sam Hubbard in Thursday night's 18-12 victory over Manila. (Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)

Manila wasted a golden opportunity on its next possession after Dylan Bogle returned the kickoff 26 yards, giving the Lions excellent field position at the Harrisburg 49. Three plays later, Hubbard got loose on a 39-yard scamper before being chased down from behind at the Hornet three. With a first and goal from the Harrisburg three yard line, Brewer gained a yard on first down. Two Bogle runs netted one yard, setting up a fourth and goal from the one, but the Hornet defense rose to the occasion, throwing Brewer for a four yard loss to stifle the Lion drive.

The game remained tied heading into the fourth period before Harrisburg took the lead for good. Smith drove the Hornets 65 yards for the winning score. The drive started with another Smith to Mross completion, this time for 30 yards down to the Lion 35 yard line. Smith raced 34 yards one play later, setting up the Hornets with a first and goal at the Lion one. The freshman quarterback sneaked in for what proved to be the winning touchdown with 3:22 left in the game.

The game appeared to be over when Harrisburg's Hunter McCann jumped on a Jordan Brewer fumble at the Manila 44 yard line, but instead of keeping the ball on the ground and running the clock out, the Hornets got greedy. After a four yard run by Smith, Harrisburg threw three straight incomplete passes, stopping the clock each time before turning the ball over to the Lions with 1:40 left in the game at the Manila 39.

Hubbard started the Lion's final comeback attempt with a 16-yard pass to Zach Reinhart, giving Manila a first down in Hornet territory at the 45 yard line. Hubbard hooked up with Dylan Bogle for a 13-yard completion on the Lion's next play, before completing back-to-back passes to Brewer and Reinhart, giving Manila a first down at the Harrisburg 15 with just under 1:00 to play. A one yard loss on a rushing attempt brought up a second and 11. With the Lions out of time-outs, Hubbard quickly spiked the ball to stop the clock with 41 seconds remaining in the game. But on Manila's next play, Hubbard's pass was picked off by Smith, who seemed to be everywhere throughout the game, ending the Lion's last chance for victory.

Manila took the lead in the first quarter when Reinhart intercepted Smith and rambled 30 yards into the end zone for a 6-0 lead at the 2:06 mark. Harrisburg came right back, driving 53 yards in seven plays, all by Smith, who tied the game with a one-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter. The two point conversion attempt failed.

Smith was a one man wrecking crew for the Hornets, finishing with 61 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns, while completing 11 passes for another 146 yards and a score. Smith accounted for all 204 of Harrisburg's total yards in the game. Mross caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown while Beau Adams snared five passes for 33 yards.

Hubbard led Manila with 79 yards on seven carries and a touchdown, while completing five of 10 passes for 51 yards. Brewer finished the night with 17 carries for 49 yards as the Lions gained 189 yards of total offense on the night. Reinhart led all Lion receivers with three receptions for 50 yards. Bogle caught two passes for 18 yards while Brewer caught one pass for two yards. Bogle completed his only pass attempt of the game for 19 yards.

"It was a night of missed opportunities," said Lion Coach Jason Durham. "We got the ball into the red zone several times and just couldn't punch it in. We have to be physical enough to punch the ball in the end zone. We had several bad snaps that cost us yardage and stopped drives. We knew what Harrisburg was going to do, and that was throw the ball. They didn't run one play between the tackles all night. We just didn't execute. They got three touchdowns but we should have had five or six ourselves."

"I thought Sam Hubbard had an excellent game tonight. For an eighth grader that's new to our system, we couldn't have asked for a much better performance from him. We'll just have to work on some things and get better for next week," concluded Durham.

Manila will play host to Cave City in conference action Thursday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

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