Junior Lions take season opener 12-6
Manila scored two first half touchdowns and held off a second half Trumann rally to defeat the Wildkittens 12-6 in the Lion's season opener Thursday night at Manila.
"We played just good enough to win," said Lion Coach Toby Doke. "We made a lot of mistakes. Our defense picked us up. We missed several opportunities to score when we got in the red zone. Our defense got a score for us and came up with a huge sack to seal the game at the end."
Manila got on the board first when linebacker Jay Kulin pounced on a Trumann fumble in the Wildkitten end zone, giving the Lions a 6-0 lead with 2:59 left in the first quarter. The two point conversion attempt failed.
Manila scored its first offensive touchdown of the year when quarterback Kyle Joyner scampered in from three yards out with 7:50 left in the first half, pushing the Lion lead to 12-0. Joyner's two point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving Manila with a 12 point lead.
Trumann opened the second half with a 52 yard kickoff return by A. J. Winningham, giving the Wildkittens a first down deep in Lion territory at the 17 yard line.
After failing to generate much offense in the first half, Trumann switched to a power attack, ramming Austin Jones straight into the heart of the Lion defense. Jones blasted his way for eight yards on the Wildkitten's first play of the second half to the Lion nine yard line. Jones bulled his way into the end zone on the next play to pull Trumann to within 12-6. The two point conversion attempt failed.
Both teams had trouble generating much offense until the fourth quarter, when the Lions marched 50 yards to the Trumann six yard line with 6:20 left in the game. But on fourth and two, the Wildkittens stuffed Thomas Davis a yard short of the first down to take possession at the Trumann five.
The Wildkittens marched their way to a first down at the Lion 49 yard line with 2:50 left in the game behind the running of Winningham and Jones. But the Manila defense stiffened, stopping Trumann on four consecutive downs, capped off by Jordan Goff's 11 yard sack of Winningham with 46 seconds left in the game.
Joyner took a knee as the clock ran out and the Lions took the win in their home opener.
"We were fortunate to win the game because we made a lot of mistakes," said Doke. "We had a couple of interceptions and a couple of fumbles, but our defense came up big when we needed them. I thought Trumann played a good game. They ran the ball straight at us in the second half and gave us a lot of problems. They ran hard with the big kid and they made it tough for us."
"We had some kids that made some big plays," continued Doke. "Thomas Davis came up with a big catch in the fourth quarter to give us a chance at a score. Jacob Cates and Caleb Reinhart also made some receptions. We just have to get more consistent. Bottom line is our kids just found a way to win."
Joyner finished the night 5-15 for 96 yards through the air while Cates and Davis had two receptions a piece for 28 and 30 yards respectively. Reinhart caught one pass for 38 yards.
The Lions will host Paragould Thursday night at Manila. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.