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Squires turn to seniors for first win of season

Manchester's Devin Marcum (14) runs downfield while being chased by Wabash's Keegan O'Neill (9) during the first half of Friday's game against Wabash

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER - Greg Miller challenged the seniors of his Manchester football team to carry the Squires in Friday’s home opener against Wabash. And with the game on the line, his seniors delivered.

Tied midway through the fourth, Manchester pieced together a 16-play, 80-yard drive featuring two third-down conversions, two fourth-down conversions and a fake punt that was capped off with a gutsy fourth-down call that saw Braxton Reem plunge into the endzone, paving the way for a 21-14 Manchester victory on the night.

“The resiliency of our kids, we tried to give it away and Wabash tried to take it but our kids were resilient and bounced back and kept a positive attitude,” Miller said. “Our seniors took us on their shoulders and we decided to win the game. The big fourth down play, veteran offensive line made that. The fake punt, two seniors connected.

“We put it on our seniors in the locker room pregame that ‘You guys are going to lead us to this victory’ and they did. Kudos to them and I’m really proud of our young men.”

After Wabash scored to level the game at 14-14 with 9:37 left, Manchester took control at its own 20-yard line. After a fumble sent the Squires backward, Devin Marcum would connect with Sam Martindale for a six-yard gain on third down to extend the drive.

The drive would sputter again as a pair of incompletions set up a punt on 4th-and-11. Wabash, though, would be called for running into the kicker on the punt and the Squires opted for a rekick. There would be no second punt, though, as the Squires ran a fake from their own 34-yard line with Marcum connecting with Kreeden Krull for a 12-yard gain and another first down.

Again, Manchester would be forced into a 3rd-and-long situation and again they would convert as Marcum found Trey Clark uncovered for a 52-yard pick up taking Manchester down to the 1-yard line.

One last time, Manchester would move backward in its first three plays before sending the field goal unit and kicker Klayton Hendrix out for a 19-yard attempt from the right hashmark. On the biggest play of the night, though, Miller hesitated before opting for a timeout.

“Klayton was kicking 47 yards before the game with the wind,” Miller said. “I sent him out there and I told my coaches ‘Talk me out of it, talk me out of it’ and for the first time, I thought my headset was broke because nobody said anything. I called a timeout and said we’re going to talk about this.”

With worries about the angle of the kick being too severe, Miller opted to send his offense back out and his senior-laden offensive line delivered once more, opening up a gaping hole for Braxton Ream to waltz into the endzone untouched to put Manchester up a score.

“It was the perfect play and Braxton ripped it through,” Miller said. “I either look good or bad doing it and they made me look pretty good.

“I’m just proud of our kids. I’m proud of them.”

Despite just 3:23 remaining in the game, the theatrics were far from over. A personal foul penalty on Wabash on the touchdown meant the Squires kicked off from inside their own territory. The Apaches would then muff the kick and Manchester would recover. A 20-yard dash up the middle from Ream three plays later looked to all but seal the game but Marcum would fumble on the next play and Wabash would take over at its own 15-yard line with 2:20 left.

The Manchester defense held strong, though, forcing a series of incompletions from Apache quarterback Payton Sodervick as Wabash eventually turned the ball over on downs to effectively end the game.

The hosts outgained Wabash by more than 100 yards offensively on the night but timely turnovers from Manchester and timely scores from the guests kept the game close.

Manchester scored on its second drive of the night on an eight-yard run from Ream while the defense remained stout, holding Wabash out of the redzone for the near entirety of the first half.

Marcum’s lone interception on the night, though, saw Keegan O’Neill pick off the senior and return the ball to the Squire 38-yard line.

Even then, Manchester would force a 4th-and-10 before Sodervick connected with Bryant Boggs for a 27-yard pass and catch down to the 11-yard line. A holding penalty would back up Wabash but Sodervick would connect with Boggs once more for a 22-yard score on third down to tie the game at 7-7.

Manchester responded with a quick, decisive drive as Marcum drove the Squires 77 yards in under three minutes, going 5-of-6 through the air on the drive for 50 yards, finished off with a 10-yard pass to Krull up the middle to give the hosts a 14-7 halftime lead.

The two sides traded possessions to start the second half before Marcum’s fumble at the edge of the red zone gave Wabash life. The Apaches would drive 81 yards in 16 plays with Kallen Kelsheimer accounting for 33 yards on the ground on the drive.

The biggest play, though, came from Wabash’s biggest offensive weapon as Boggs made his best catch of the night, reeling in a jump ball between a pair of Squire defenders at the goal line, setting up Wabash with a 1st-and-goal opportunity at the one. Kelsheimer would plunge in from a yard out to tie the game before Manchester’s game-winning drive.

Marcum finished 13-for-25 through the air with 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Clark caught five passes for 93 yards while Krull reeled in a pair of passes for 32 yards and a score. Seven different Squires caught at least one pass on the night.

For Wabash, Sodervick finished 9-of-27 for 137 yards and a score with Boggs accounting for 110 yards on five receptions with the touchdown. In total, Boggs had 112 of Wabash’s 194 yards of offense on the night.

Wabash falls to 1-2 with the loss while Manchester also moves to 1-2 with the win.