Lions keep playoff hopes alive with win at Piggott

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Players from both sides scramble for a loose ball in the Lion's contest at Piggott.(TC photo/Tim Blair)

The Manila Lions continued to enjoy a successful season Friday night, as they traveled to Piggott and brought home a 36-29 conference win over the Mohawks. The victory, combined with the win over Rivercrest the previous Friday night, virtually insured the Lions a spot in the 3A state playoffs as the top five from 3A-3 will be advancing to the postseason.

Coming off the emotional win over the Colts, and visiting the Mohawks on their annual senior night, could have combined for a letdown. But, the Manila squad remained focused on the task at hand as they battled their hosts in what will be remembered as a competitive and exciting contest.

The Mohawks won the coin toss, but deferred to the second half, giving the Lions first shot on offense. And, the Manila squad took full advantage of the opportunity as they marched downfield to draw first blood. The score came on a 27 yard run by Aaron Carter, but the D.J. Myers PAT attempt was no good, and with 11:09 left in the first quarter the Lions led 6-0.

Manila's Jake Helton looks for running room as he returns a kickoff during Friday night's win at Piggott.

Later in the first quarter the Mohawks would answer with a 16 yard touchdown run by Landon Williams. Seth Lacy added the PAT, and the hosts led 7-6 about mid-way through the quarter. On the following Lion drive the offense moved the ball into Piggott territory, but ran out of steam leading to a 32 yard Myers field goal, which gave the Lions a 9-7 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff Piggott's Logan Dixon answered with an 84 yard return, outrunning several Manila defenders en route to the end zone. Once again Lacy added the PAT, and the host team re-took the lead at 14-9 with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter.

Dixon would strike again early in the second quarter, this time on offense as he broke through the Lion's defense and carried the ball 88 yards for his second TD of the night. Once again Lacy hit the PAT, and the score moved to 21-9.

But, again the Lions answered the call on the following drive, with quarterback Jake Helton carrying it in from eight yards out to score with 9:25 to play in the first half. Myers added the PAT, and the score moved to 21-16.

Manila would score once more in the first half, getting the ball back mid-way through the second quarter and pushing it downfield by way of several big runs by Helton and Carter. The drive was capped with a 30 yard touchdown pass from Helton to Tyler Archer. This time Myers' PAT was good, and the Lions took a 23-21 advantage into the halftime intermission.

The Mohawks got the ball first in the second half, and re-took the lead with 7:48 to go in the third quarter as Cody Crittenden scored on an eight yard touchdown run. Quarterback Bret Fuller added the two-point conversion for the Mohawks, as they went ahead 29-23.

But, the lead would be short-lived for the hosts, as the Lions tied the game on the following kickoff as Timmy Smith ran it back 95 yards for yet another Manila touchdown. This time the Mohawks blocked Myers' PAT attempt, as the two teams stood tied at 29-29 with 7:33 to play in the ballgame.

The Mohawks tried to respond on the following drive, which ended on a fourth and short play deep in Lion territory. With time running out, the Lions put together a late game drive which ended with Helton carrying it in from 12 yards out with 1:33 to play in the contest. This time Myers' PAT was good, and the final score was set at 36-29.

Despite the close score, the Lions dominated on offense with 435 yards while the Mohawks had 298 yards in total offense. Carter led all rushers with 168 yards on 21 carries while Helton carried the ball 24 times for 119 yards. Helton was also 2 for 6 for 37 yards with one touchdown, and one interception as he was picked-off by Piggott's Caleb Welborn. Pacing the Mohawks was Dixon with 134 yards on 12 carries, as he surpassed the 1,100 yard rushing mark on the season.

One matter which should be a concern for the Manila coaching staff was penalty yards, as the Lions were flagged for 75 yards on the night compared to 35 for the Mohawks.

With the win the Lions move to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play with two games left in the regular season. Currently Rivercrest and Hoxie have the top two spots at 4-1 in conference, while the Lions are at 3-2 along with Cedar Ridge and Osceola and the Mohawks drop to 2-3. Rounding out the 3A-3 standings are Melbourne at 1-4 and Corning at 0-5.

Friday night the Lions will visit the Bobcats at Corning, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. They'll be back home to wrap-up the regular season on Thursday, Nov. 5, as they host the Hoxie Mustangs.

The Manila Lions take the field Friday night at Piggott, with a chance for a playoff spot on the line.
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