By J. SCOTT SEWELL
MANNING – What a difference a week makes.
The Manning High School football team fell to Wilson 35-13 on Friday at Ramsey Stadium, a week after dismantling Scott’s Branch 62-8. The Monarchs fell behind early and were never able to catch up to Wilson’s high-octane offense.
The Tigers scored in just three plays on their first possession as Yavin Smith ran the ball in for a score. Wilson quickly added a two-point conversion for an early 8-0 lead. Manning answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by John Hilton to cut the deficit to 8-7.
The Monarchs wouldn’t get any closer.
Wilson added two more scores in the first half, taking a 22-7 lead before Manning starting quarterback Corey Graham went down with a lower leg injury. Graham wouldn’t return, and the Monarchs offense struggled mightily the rest of the night without him.
“Overall, I can’t fault the kids’ effort,” said Manning head coach Reggie Kennedy whose team fell to 1-1 on the season. “Especially after losing our quarterback, that kinda threw a monkey wrench into everything in the second half.”
Kennedy added that it’s too early to tell if Graham will be available for next game.
“He’ll get evaluated tomorrow, and we’ll go from there,” said Kennedy.The one silver lining Manning can take from the game is that its defense managed to hold Wilson in several key spots to keep the score from getting even more out of hand.
“We made a few (defensive) changes,” said Kennedy. “We were bringing a lot of 3-man pressure, and then we went to 4-man and 5-man pressure. We knew they were going to be a good quality football team offensively, and we needed to play well on offense to keep our defense off the field, and we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The Monarchs threatened late in the fourth quarter, with wide receiver Aaron Smith streaking wide open down the sideline for what looked to be a sure 50-yard touchdown, but Smith ultimately juggled the ball several times before it fell harmlessly to the ground.
It was just that kind of night for Manning.
The Monarchs recovered a fumble on the Wilson 5-yard line on the next possession, and finally broke through with a 5-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Irvin Mares to cut the deficit to 35-13.
“They were physical,” said Kennedy. “They made the plays they needed to make. I think we had a few missed opportunities. You just can’t do that against a good football team. We’ll learn from this and move on.”
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