CHAMPS! Mavericks complete perfect season with state title win

By JASON PATTERSON,

Manchester head coach Bryan Dendy remembers when his current group of football players was suiting up for the pee wee team.

A lot of people underestimated them.

There were bigger players on the other teams. Were these kids going to be able to compete?

The young team erased any doubts by finishing the season unbeaten.

“They played against a lot of bigger guys, but no one had bigger hearts,” Dendy said.

Dendy reflected on that pee wee football team Friday as the final seconds ticked off the clock and those same boys were able to celebrate the school’s first state championship in 35 years.

“It just goes to show that all of that hard work that our kids and our coaches put in was worth it,” Dendy said. “They had a goal, and they did what it took to earn it.”

The Mavericks completed a perfect 12-0 season by defeating Marvell Academy 36-8 in the MAIS 2A State Championship game.

If it seemed like the Mavericks were playing like they had something to prove this season, it’s because they felt like they did. A year ago they entered the state title game on the same field with the same undefeated record only to fall 40-34 to Tallulah.

Dendy said that loss left a bitter taste in their mouths that they used for motivation this season.

“It all started with losing that game to Tallulah,” he said. “We knew that we had unfinished business.”

The Mavericks finished that business in convincing fashion Friday in the pouring rain.

Parks Poe scored a six-yard touchdown to give the Mavericks a 6-0 lead with 2:33 to go in the first quarter.

Upton Hitt scored on a quarterback keeper for a 12-0 lead in the second quarter.

All season long Mavericks running back Michael Williams has used his speed to make defenses pay when they give him room to run. That was the case once more on Friday when Williams found a hole and raced 42 yards to the end zone.

Hitt then connected with Ty Kilpatrick on a two-point pass for a 20-0 lead with 3:45 to go before halftime.

Jon Riley Poe scored another rushing touchdown, and Dylan Dendy punched in the two-point conversion to build the lead to 28-0 with 28 seconds left in the first half.

Manchester has used its explosive offense to build commanding first half leads all season. Coach Dendy said he was pleased to see that the rain didn’t slow them down when it mattered most.

“We had a turnover on the first series, but after that  we did a great job of handling the ball,” he said.

Parks Poe grabbed an interception early in the third quarter. He carried it all the way to the end zone, but the would-be touchdown was called back for a sideline penalty.

Dylan Dendy then scored, becoming fifth Maverick to score a touchdown, and Williams added the two-point conversion for a 36-0 lead with 1:38 left in the third quarter. The Mavericks would carry that lead into the final stanza.

Parks Poe grabbed his second interception of the day to bring the Mavericks offense back on the field with 8:15 left in the game.

Marvell finally got on the board with a 48-yard touchdown pass with just 3:50 left to play.

The rain stopped just as the game ended, allowing the Mavericks to celebrate in the sunshine with the large crowd of fans who made the trip and endured the weather.

Parks Poe finished the game with nine carries for 113 yards and a touchdown and one reception for 32 yards. He also had three tackles and two interceptions on defense.

Michael Williams had five carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Jon Riley Poe had seven carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. He also had four tackles and broke up three passes.

Dylan Dendy had seven carries for 43 yards and a touchdown and one reception for seven yards. He also had five tackles on defense.

In addition to his rushing touchdown, Hitt completed 3-of-4 passes in the rain for 42 total yards.

The Mavericks offense racked up 317 total yards with 275 on the ground and 42 through the air.

“I was very pleased with how everyone contributed on offense,” Dendy said.

Greyson Winstead helped lead the defense with five tackles and a sack.

Cade Potter had four tackles.

Tyler Johnson had a pair of tackles and a tackle for loss.

Matt Carroll broke up three passes, and Connor Stevens had a tackle.

Coach Dendy said that in addition to providing motivation for this season, the experience of playing in the state title game last year paid off.

“It definitely makes a difference,” he said. “This is a bigger stage, and there are a lot of things going on. There is not doubt that we benefited from being here before.”

Dendy hopes that experience will continue to be valuable next season.

“We are losing five seniors who made great contributions to this team, but I feel good about the team we have coming back next year, and we are going to work with a goal of getting back to Jackson at the end of the season,” he said.