Lions hold off late Bearcat rally for 33-28 win
Manila's pregame theme called for fans in attendance to grab their popcorn and watch the Lions put on a show. That's exactly what senior quarterback Jake Helton and his teammates did, as the Lions built a three touchdown lead after three quarters before holding off a furious fourth period Brookland rally to defeat the Bearcats 33-28 Friday night in nonconference senior high football action at Lion Field.
Helton exploded for 192 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. The Lion signal caller also completed a pair of passes for 33 yards and finished the night with 225 yards of total offense. Josh McQueen also added a pair of touchdowns for the Lions, as Manila improved to 2-1 on the young season.
The Bearcats grabbed a 7-0 lead after taking the opening kickoff and drove 69 yards in 11 plays, scoring on a two yard touchdown run by Brian Ford. Soccer style kicker Oscar Castillo tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 Brookland lead with 7:31 left in the opening quarter.
Manila tied things up early in the second period on Helton's first score of the night, a five yard scamper with 10:27 left in the first half. D.J. Myers drilled the extra point and the game was knotted at 7-7.
Brookland regained the lead on quarterback Garrett Barnes' one yard keeper with 5:18 remaining in the half. Castillo knocked through the extra point to put the Bearcats back on top 14-7.
Manila put together a 14-play, 70 yard touchdown march, scoring on McQueen's three yard ramble with just 17 ticks left before halftime. Myers missed the extra point, leaving Brookland with a 14-13 halftime edge.
The Lions took the opening kickoff of the second half and traveled 66 yards, scoring when McQueen ran over several would-be tacklers on a 14-yard touchdown blast. Aaron Carter's two point conversion run gave Manila a 21-14 advantage with 9:24 left in the third quarter.
Manila increased its lead to 27-14 on Helton's second touchdown run of the night at the 2:53 mark of the third period. The score capped off a 64 yard drive with big chunks of yardage coming from Helton, McQueen and sophomore Michael Dixon.
The Lion defense came up big on Brookland's next possession, forcing a three and out. After a short Bearcat punt, Manila took over at the Brookland 41 where Helton kept on the option keeper and darted 41 yards for his third touchdown of the evening and a 33-14 Lion lead with 37 seconds left in the third quarter of play.
Brookland drove deep into Manila territory on its next possession, but Lion cornerback D.J. Myers picked off a Barnes pass at the Manila four yard line to thwart the Bearcat threat. The Lions seemed to be on their way to another time consuming scoring drive, but Helton lost control of the football at the Lion 40 where Brookland's Kane Nicholson scooped and scored, slicing the Manila lead to 33-21 with 5:37 remaining in the game. The Lions blocked the extra point, but were called for roughing the kicker, giving Castillo another shot. The junior knocked through the point after, and Manila was penalized for a personal foul, allowing the Bearcats to kickoff deep in Lion territory.
Brookland elected to go for the onside kick and successfully recovered the ball at the Lion 14 yard line. Two incomplete passes set up a third down, where Barnes connected with Ford on a 14 yard screen pass and a touchdown. Castillo's point after suddenly closed the Lion lead to 33-28.
Brookland tried another onside kick, but this time the Lions recovered at the Manila 46. The Lions drove to the Bearcat 28 with just over two minutes left, but a vicious hit separated Carter from the football. The Bearcats recovered the ball at their own 34 yard line, giving the visitors one last shot for an improbable come from behind win with 2:28 showing on the clock.
With no time outs, Brookland went into a hurry-up offense. An incomplete pass and a six yard run set up third down with one minute left. Nicholson broke loose and darted 23 yards before being pulled down from behind at the Lion 37. Manila was whistled for a facemask, moving the ball all the way to the Lion 22 yard line with 50 seconds remaining. The Lion defense stiffened, and on fourth down, junior defensive end Marcos Flores ran down Barnes behind the line of scrimmage, snuffing out Brookland's last hopes.
Manila went into the victory formation with Helton taking a knee as the clock ticked down to zero.
The Lions finished with an eye popping 389 yards of total offense on 69 plays. Manila gained 356 yards on the ground and finished with 19 first downs. Carter had 56 yards on 13 carries while McQueen rushed 10 times for 55 yards. Dixon had 12 totes for 42 yards, Patrick Tanner rushed once for eight yards while Timmy Smith had one carry for three yards. Tyler Archer had one reception for 21 yards while McQueen snared on pass for 12.
Brookland, who had 10 first downs on the night, was limited to 217 yards by the Lion defense. Barnes finished 9-20 through the air for 122 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Zach Reynolds led the Bearcats in receiving with four catches for 75 yards. Ford had three grabs for 34 yards. Ford also led Brookland in rushing with 12 carries for 54 yards.
"I am really proud of these kids," said Lion Coach Jerry Castor. "This is the first time we've been 2-1. We made some mistakes and let them get close at the end, but our defense came up big when we needed them to. We ran the ball well tonight. We've got to learn to take care of it better, which we will. This was a big win for our team and for our program as a whole. We need to keep building on this."
Manila will travel to Melbourne Friday night for the beginning of 3A-3 conference play.