Years from now, perhaps when they’re sitting in the stands watching their own children play football, members of the 2020 Manchester football team will probably still be getting asked the same question.
“Were y’all really as good as they say you were?”
And no matter how much time has passed since they last took the field, there will probably still only be one way to honestly answer that question.
“We were the best there ever was.”
Manchester Academy’s senior class cemented their legacy as the most talented group in the school’s history with a 58-26 win over Riverdale to capture a second straight state title.
The Mavericks completed their second consecutive undefeated season without a single opponent coming within 30 points. The team has made three straight title game appearances, won the last two championships and posted a 37-1 record over the last three seasons with the only loss coming in the 2018 state championship game.
That doesn’t happen without the perfect combination of quality coaching and talented athletes.
Manchester had a stable of star athletes for the last three seasons, and the senior class had one last chance to shine Thursday at Jackson Academy.
They did not disappoint.
Senior Michael Williams, nicknamed “F-16” for his blazing speed, used that speed to his advantage when it mattered most as he rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
The Poe brothers, who have been two of the greatest competitors to ever wear the green and gold, ended their high school careers with the kind of gritty performances MA fans have come to expect.
Jon Riley Poe completed 4-of-6 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He also had eight carries for 32 yards.
Three of those four completions were to his twin brother Parks Poe, who had 116 receiving yards and two catches for touchdowns. Parks Poe also had five carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Dylan Dendy, who has punished the opposition on both sides of the ball all season long as a power running back and league-leading defensive end, continued to give out hits like early Christmas presents.
On offense, he had seven carries for 32 yards and a touchdown and one reception for 21 yards.
The Mavericks defense also lived up to its reputation with the defense contributing two touchdowns to the win.
Tyler Bardwell had a pick six in the third quarter, and Dylan Dendy scooped up a fumble on the run for a 60-yard score.
Dylan Dendy also had two sacks and four tackles, and Bardwell added four tackles.
Tres Paul helped shut down Riverdale’s passing game with an interception, four pass deflections and a tackle.
Connor Stevens was also a constant threat as he broke up three passes and had three tackles.
Jon Riley Poe had 12 tackles, and Parks Poe had seven.
Tyler Johnson had five tackles.
Mills Paul had a pass deflection and two tackles.
Hayes Kyle had two tackles.
Mavericks head coach Bryan Dendy said he couldn’t be prouder of his team’s efforts.
“We’re just blessed to be able to win another state title,” he said. “Our kids worked so hard for this, and they had to overcome some adversity. I’m proud of every one of them, and I’m proud of our coaching staff. They all put in the hard work that it takes to get here.”
MA wasted no time taking command of the field.
Parks Poe scored a 31-yard touchdown and Jon Riley Poe punched in the two-point conversion for an early 8-0 lead.
Michael Williams added a 60-yard touchdown with Dylan Dendy adding two points for a 16-0 lead with 6:07 left in the first quarter.
Riverdale was threatening to score on the next drive, but Tres Paul grabbed an interception on the one-yard line to shut it down.
With their backs against the goal line, the Mavericks began a drive that ended with Jon Riley Poe connecting with Parks Poe for an 86-yard touchdown pass.
Riverdale got on the board with 4:34 to go before halftime as Witt Almond tossed a five-yard pass to Kyle Guillory to cut the lead to 24-8.
Parks Poe answered with another receiving touchdown. Dylan Dendy appeared to score the two-point conversion at first, but it was negated after a successful Riverdale challenge.
Riverdale was able to score again, and MA led 30-14 at halftime.
Manchester began to pull away in the third quarter with Dylan Dendy and Tyler Bardwell adding their defensive touchdowns and Dylan Dendy scoring on a four-yard carry.
Riverdale scored two passing touchdowns in the final quarter, but it was too late.
Michael Williams closed the deal with a 49-yard touchdown, as the Manchester sidelines began celebrating the victory.