Jackson Bound: Mavs advance to state title game

By TAYLOR HAWKINS,

Manchester’s Academy march through 8-man football has reached its final destination: the state championship.

On Friday night, the Mavericks defeated Humphreys Academy 42-6 to make the finals.

The win improved Manchester’s record to 12-0 on the season.

According to Manchester Academy head coach Bryan Dendy, it has been a long time since the Mavericks have played for a title, let alone win one.

“It means a lot,” Dendy said. “The last time we played for one was in 2000. The last time we won one was in 1984. It’s big for our kids to see that hard work pays off. It’s big for the community and big for the coaching staff.”

The game with Humphreys felt nearly identical to the first contest.

Once again, the Mavericks got on the board first with a 30-yard touchdown from Upton Hitt to Jon Riley Poe to give the Mavs a 6-0 lead.

In the second quarter, Parks Poe broke off a long touchdown run. After a successful 2-point conversion by Dylan Dendy, the Mavericks led 14-0.

Soon after, Guice Hill hooked up with Zach Johnson on a 30-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline to cut the lead to 14-6 at the half.

In the third quarter, Michael Williams broke off a touchdown run to extend Manchester’s lead to 20-6, which was extended to 22-6 after a Dylan Dendy 2-point conversion.

Tragedy soon struck for Manchester.

Senior Blake Coghlan went down with a lower leg injury and had to be helped off the field.

Dendy felt that his team rallied around their fallen comrade.

“Losing Blake is huge for our offense and defense,” Dendy said. “Anytime you’ve got a kid laying there hurt, it isn’t a good feeling. I think our kids rallied around it. They knew they had to step up, and they did that.”

To ensure Humphreys got no momentum from the injury, Parks Poe picked off a pass and took it back for a touchdown to extend Manchester’s lead to 28-6.

Dendy believes that was the deciding play of the game.

“I think the pick-six was the crucial play,” Dendy said. “It turned the momentum. It was the big play in the game. I’m proud of our coaches and kids.”

Manchester tacked on two more touchdowns to push the final to 42-6.

Once again, Dendy felt the actual game was far closer than the score indicated.

“Humphreys is just a well-coached team,” Dendy said. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Jerry Wayne and Coach Taylor. They have a good program with a lot of good athletes. It was a hard-fought game. The final score doesn’t indicate what type of game it was.”

Manchester put up a whopping 358 total yards in the win.

They were well-balanced in the win, rushing for 232 yards and passing for 126.

Quarterback Upton Hitt went 6-for-8 through the air for 126 yards with one touchdown.

Parks Poe led the Mavericks in rushing with nine carries for 99 yards and one touchdown. He caught three passes for 28 yards. He also racked up six tackles and picked a ball off for a touchdown.

Dylan Dendy took his 13 carries 43 yards and had two tackles.

Michael Williams had eight carries for 76 yards with two touchdowns.

Jon Riley Poe had five carries for 13 yards, two receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown, and five tackles.

Blake Coghlan had two catches for 42 yards and three total tackles.

Hayes Bardwell was dominant in the trenches, racking up six tackles.

Matt Carrol played well defensively, tallying four tackles with one interception.

Ty Kilpatrick had two tackles and caught one pass for three yards.

The Mavericks will play their final game of the season on Saturday morning against Tallulah Academy for the state championship.

The game will be a match-up between the undefeated teams in the 8-man realm.

Tallulah is 12-0 after defeating Prairie View 52-20 on Friday night.

Dendy expects the determining game to be a tough one.

The key is stopping Tallulah’s offense is stopping their quarterback, who has yet to be stopped this season.

“Tallulah is a really good football team,” Dendy said. “They’ve got a really good QB. He’s rushed for over 200 yards in every game they’ve played. You’ve got to be able to contain him and tackle in space. It’s an exciting time right now. We’ll coach them up the best we can and come out prepared.”

The state title will be played on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Jackson Academy.