By Bryan Davis
There’s no doubt that the Manchester Academy Mavericks (1-6; 1-1) were overdue for a win this season. They’d run into some tough love in the first half of the year, and while possession one of the top players in Academy football (Matt Peaster), it was only a matter of time before they exploded for a win.
The Oak Hill Academy Raiders (2-6; 1-1) were just hoping that explosion would hold off at least one more week, as they traveled to Yazoo City to take on the Mavs on Friday night. They were defeated 32-20.
“Our kids weren’t ready to play, and that ultimately falls on me,” said Oak Hill head coach Leroy Gregg.
This game was a tale of early-season misfortune turned into hope for the Mavericks and the Raiders. Oak Hill got off to an 0-4 start in the first month of the season, but a conference win against Carroll, two weeks ago, had ignited a justified hope that the Raiders would enter the playoffs. They needed just one more league win to get there, and that win was supposed to come against Manchester, who started the season 0-6.
The Mavericks’ playoff hopes rested on this game, and this game only, while the Raiders could lose and still have a shot to get in.
Both teams came out in the first half, rusty and unable to hold on to the football very well. Early mistakes cost both teams. On Manchester’ s opening drive, they had four first downs, but it only resulted in a fourth down punt to the Raiders.
The Raiders followed with a three-and-out series.
On Manchester’s next possession, the quarterback Peaster broke out in the way did so many times in 2009. He connected with John Bryant, from the 15 yard line, for an 85 yard touchdown pass to put his team up 7-0, after Bryant tacked on the extra point, with 4:50 to play in the frame.
When the Raiders got the ball back, they knew they had to answer. Phillip Liu started the drive with a 10 yard run, followed by a 15 yard rush by Bo Sanford.
Doss Miller got into the mix for three yards, followed by a first-down, nine yard rush by Liu again. Eventually, the Raiders would be in a first and goal, at the two. Miller, who left last week’s game with a foot injury, was back in action, and he leaped into the end zone for the two-yard score to tie the game 7-7, with 2:46 to play in the first.
On Manchester’s next drive, Peaster and his offense were driving fast two the end zone. They were stationed at the one-yard line, when a fumbled snap led to an Oak Hill recovery.
The drive would come to nothing, but they managed to stop Manchester from taking the lead. After Reid Posey’s 45 yard punt, Manchester began driving again. Sloppy play, however, led to another fumble by Manchester, who coughed up the ball to Chad Moore, inside the Oak Hill 10 yard line.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, Manchester only allowed them to go backwards, eventually capitalizing on a fumbled snap that landed in the end zone for a safety and a 9-7 Manchester lead.
Manchester would get the ball on the kickoff, but for the third straight possession, they would fumble, as Perry Whitworth gave it up to Jeb Stevens.
Oak Hill had a golden opportunity, and they drove all the way inside the Manchester 10-yard line, but another fumbled snap was picked up on a bounce by Peaster, who took it 92 yards to the Oak Hill end zone for a touchdown and a 17-7 score, with 4:30 remaining in the half.
“That was a big play in the game,” Gregg said. “That took a lot of starch out of us.”
That was a big blow, but Oak Hill did not let that get them down. After the kickoff and a 10 yard run by Miller, Liu broke a tackle and got loose for a 65-yard touchdown run to make it 17-14, with 4:07 to play in the second.
They would take that score into the second half, where Oak Hill would get the ball, but they would not go anywhere with it.
On Manchester first drive of the third, the Mavericks would drive to the edge of the red zone. The quarterback Peaster would then connect for what looked like a 20-yard touchdown pass to his brother, Josh Peaster, in the end zone. However, an illegal participation penalty backed them up five yards.
The Peaster’s must practice this at home, because on the very next play, they connected again for the official 25-yarder that put the Mavs up 24-14, with 4:49 to go in the third.
The Raiders would put together a promising looking drive, but they would eventually turn the ball over on downs, giving Peaster one more chance to score, as the clock dipped under a minute in the third.
He and the Mavericks did so, taking the ball in from the 10-yard line, following a Whitworth 44-yard rush. This made it 30-14, with 54 seconds to play in the third.
When the fourth started, time was flying by against the Raiders. They needed quick points, so they went to the hero of the last three weeks, Sanford. From five yards out, Sanford took the ball in to make it 30-20, after a failed two-point try.
With less than 12 minutes to play, Manchester began driving toward the death knell. On a third and 10, deep in Oak Hill territory, Peaster got greedy and went to the air one too many times. Stevens reached up and intercepted the football on the one-yard line in the corner of the end zone.
Oak Hill was looking at 99 yards to the other end zone, but they wouldn’t even get one, as the ball rusher was taken down in the end zone for the Raiders’ second safety of the night, making it 32-20.
After that, Manchester used their possessions to wind down the clock on Oak Hill’s second district loss.
Manchester finished the game with 508 yards of total offense. Oak Hill finished with 248 yards of total offense.
Both teams will follow up next Friday night with non-league matches. Manchester will host Hillcrest Christian, and Oak Hill will be back at home to face Kirk Academy.