Lions rally past Walnut Ridge for first win
It looked as though Manila was headed for its fourth straight defeat, as the Lions trailed Walnut Ridge 20-12 entering the fourth quarter of Friday night’s 3A-3 conference showdown at Lion Field. But Manila put together a spirited fourth quarter rally to post a thrilling 36-20 come from behind victory over the Bobcats, giving the Lions their first victory of the season.
A crucial defensive stand by Manila spearheaded the Lion comeback. Manila stuffed Bobcat running back Colin Phillips on a fourth down play, giving the Lions possession at their own 29-yard line. A 21-yard pass play from quarterback Lane Sims to receiver Brett Carter pushed the ball into Bobcat territory. After a 10-yard scamper by Sims, Logan Hamilton burst 32 yards through the heart of the Walnut Ridge defense and into the end zone to pull the Lions to within 20-18 with 6:57 left in the game. Hamilton rammed into the end zone with the two-point conversion to even the score at 20-20.
Walnut Ridge tried to answer, driving to the Manila 48, but Grant Salzer picked off a Cade Burris pass, giving the ball back to the Lions at their own 45-yard line. On Manila’s first play following the Bobcat turnover, Sims darted 55 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Hamilton again provided the two-point conversion run, giving the Lions a 28-20 lead with 4:43 remaining.
Manila’s defense stiffened on Walnut Ridge’s next possession, holding the Bobcats on downs. Manila took over near midfield with just over a minute to go. With the Walnut Ridge defense bunched close to the line of scrimmage, Sims raced through the Bobcat defenders on his way to a 43-yard touchdown jaunt, trotting into the end zone with just 48 seconds left. Carter provided the two-point conversion, giving Manila a 36-20 lead.
Manila got on the board first in the opening quarter when Sims hooked up with Carter on a 64-yard touchdown strike with just three seconds left in the first quarter. The two-point conversion failed, but the Lions held a 6-0 lead.
Walnut Ridge answered with a methodical 13-play, 54-yard touchdown march, capped off by Phillips’ one-yard plunge, tying the score at 6-6 at the 5:53 mark of the second period.
Manila took the lead right back when Hamilton scored from 10 yards out with 3:45 left before intermission. Hamilton’s touchdown was set up by Sims 48-yard pass to Robert McCallie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, as the Lions clung to a 12-6 lead.
Walnut Ridge tied the game 12-12 when Burris found Andrew Brewer on the right sidelines for a 29-yard touchdown with 1:32 left in the half.
The Bobcats went on top in the third quarter when Burrus capped off a nine-play scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown keeper. Burris’ two-point pass gave Walnut Ridge a 20-12 advantage with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
The Bobcats played the majority of the game without starting quarterback Tristan Hoffman, who was injured late in the first quarter. Hoffman had to be carried from the field by ambulance with an undisclosed injury.
Sims and Hamilton both rushed 12 times each, with Sims gaining 125 yards to go along with his two touchdowns, while Hamilton gained 86 yards while scoring twice. The Lion running back also had an 88-yard touchdown run called back on Manila’s first possession due to a holding penalty. Sims completed 4-5 passes for 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Carter led Manila in receiving, with two catches for 85 yards and a score. Cameron Wilson snared one pass for 11 yards. The Lions finished with 359 total yards, including 215 on the ground, despite running 31 less plays than the Bobcats on the night.
Walnut Ridge finished with 287 yards total offense, with 206 coming on the ground and 81 through the air. Burris rushed 25 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. Phillips carried 13 times for 68 yards and a score while Brewer had eight rushes for 37 yards. Burris completed 3-7 passes for 51 yards, one touchdown and one interception, while Hoffman completed 3-4 throws for 30 yards. Slade Dalton had four receptions for 39 yards to lead the Bobcats in receiving.
“This was a big win for us tonight,” said Lion Coach Jerry Castor. “We’re finally starting to put things together. We really played well both offensively and defensively. Lane Sims and Logan Hamilton both had big games on offense. Brett Carter had something like 16 tackles and was all over the field, and Grant Salzer came up with that big interception. It’s good to get off to a 1-0 start in conference play and get that first win under our belts. I’m very pleased with our effort tonight.”
Manila returns to conference play Friday night with a road trip to Hoxie.