Mavs fight to the finish in state title gameBy TAYLOR HAWKINS,
Wins. Losses. Triumphs. Heartbreaks. Legacies. Legends.
A brief moment can change the course of history in an instant, altering how people and moments in time will be remembered forever.
Unfortunately for Manchester Academy’s Mavericks, a bounce here and a broken tackle there allowed Tallulah Academy to come from behind in the final minutes of Saturday’s state championship game to win 40-34.
Manchester Academy head football coach Bryan Dendy was overwhelmed by pride in how his team performed on the biggest stage in the MAIS 8-Man Division.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Dendy said. “I’m proud of our guys. We came out and fought until the end, just like we have in every game this year.”
The game kicked off as so many 8-man football games do. Tallulah kicked an onside kick, which Manchester recovered.
The Mavericks got off to their trademarked hot start. A quick pass from Upton Hitt to Parks Poe knocked out 25 yards in a flash.
Two more Parks Poe touches had the Mavericks at the opposing 25, but a fumble by Hitt gave Tallulah the ball.
And they made the most of it.
Senior quarterback Joshua Collins took it 80 yards down the field to give the Trojans a 6-0 lead. It was the first time a team had taken a lead over Manchester all season.
The Mavericks went 3-and-out on the following drive, but things went from bad to worse on the ensuing punt.
A bad snap led to the punter getting pressured, which led to him attempting to toss the ball forward to avoid a big loss in yardage. Unfortunately for him, a Tallulah player was there waiting on it, picking off the throw.
On a 3rd-and-1, Collins struck again with a 20-yard touchdown run. The Trojans extended their lead further with a successful 2-point conversion, giving them a 14-0 lead with 4:07 remaining in the first quarter.
On Manchester’s next drive, Hitt hooked up with Parks Poe again for a 53-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point attempt was good, cutting their lead to 14-8.
The Mavericks followed their score up with a successful onside kick attempt and scored a few plays later when Dylan Dendy took it in from four yards out to tie things up at 14-14 with 2:19 remaining in the first.
Tallulah received the kick, and they immediately began working their way down the field. By the time the buzzer sounded for the end of the quarter, Collins had just finished running the ball in from the 22, giving them a 20-14 lead.
The Trojans stepped up defensively and forced a punt, and Collins quickly made his presence felt once again, rushing for a 40-yard score to extend their lead to 26-14.
Back-to-back interceptions from each team placed Manchester at the opposing 42.
Michael Williams broke free and scampered 42 yards for a score to cut the lead to 26-20.
MA’s defense soon forced a punt, and the offense began driving once again.
Unfortunately for Manchester, an interception in the end zone ended their hopes to tie things up before the half.
Tallulah took a 26-20 lead into the break.
The Trojans got the ball after the half and began a drive that knocked minute after minute off the clock.
Their drive finally ended in the end zone when Collins crossed the plane from six yards out to push their lead up to 32-20.
Manchester’s following drive ended in a punt, but the defense came up with a fumble recovery to give them life once more.
Michael Williams used that second chance to score a 63-yard touchdown to bring the score to 32-26 with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
The Mavericks kicked a beautiful onside kick and recovered it.
The grinded their way down the field three yards at a time and finally scored on a 4-yard Dendy run to tie things up at 32-32. A Parks Poe 2-point conversion gave Manchester a 34-32 lead with 6:33 remaining, their first of the game.
A little over two minutes later Tallulah regained the lead on a 35-yard touchdown run. After a successful 2-point conversion they led 40-34.
Manchester’s chances were cut significantly when they fumbled a pitch, leading to a turnover. Manchester was unable to get the ball back.
Tallulah won the state title by a score of 40-34.
Collins ended the game with an astounding 25 rushes for 295 yards and five touchdowns.
According to Dendy, the Mavs knew they would get a heavy dose of Collins, and they received what they expected.
“They did what we expected them to do,” Dendy said. “Their quarterback is a great player. We knew he would be running a lot. We had a hard time getting downhill against them. We probably need to do better as coaches.”
What was different about the game, however, was the absence of Manchester senior Blake Coghlan, who broke his leg a week ago against Humphreys Academy.
When things were tough or the Mavs needed a big play downfield, Coghlan was the guy.
“We certainly missed him,” Dendy said. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve done this year. Reid Bane stepped up and played well. Ty Kilpatrick stepped up and played well.”
Despite the loss, the Mavericks still accomplished some great things on offense.
They put up 661 yards of total offense.
Michael Williams led the way rushing with 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Parks Poe had 81 rushing yards, 143 receiving yards and a touchdown, six tackles, and a fumble recovery.
Jon Riley Poe had 5.5 tackles and an interception. He also chipped in 76 rushing yards.
Dylan Dendy had 22 rushing yards with two touchdowns in the loss. He also had 8.5 tackles.
Hayes Bardwell chipped in 2.5 tackles.
Ty Kilpatrick pieced together four tackles and broke up a pass in the loss.
Matt Carrol had two tackles and a fumble recovery.
Tyler Bardwell had a forced fumble and a tackle.
Despite not reaching their goal of a state title, the Mavericks went 12-1 and came within a play or two of immortality.
Dendy is proud of everything they were able to accomplish this season.
“We’re just really proud of our kids for what they accomplished this year,” Dendy said. “They came in with a great attitude every day for practice. We came into the unknown this season when we started 8-man football. They bought into it and gave us everything they had, even in the championship game. That’s all you can ask of them as a coach.”