MANCHESTER – It was the end of the line for the Manchester and Eastern Pike football teams.
But both entered Friday’s contest with a 4-5 record, hoping to avoid a losing season.
The Eagles used 42 first half points and a five touchdown performance from Luke Spencer to power past the Greyhounds for a 64-13 win.
“It’s huge for our offseason. I’ve got about 13 juniors that we really want to have a good offseason and come back next year for a big season. We were really hoping to finish strong because we have a big senior class next year. I’m only losing four kids, so we think we can have a big season next year,” said Eastern Pike coach Scott Tomlison. “We weren’t really in contention for anything, but we kept preaching all week to build momentum into the offseason.”
Despite the loss, Manchester still finishes with one of their best records since the football program was revived for its first full varsity season in 2008. The only winning season came in 2013 at 6-4, but in 2014 – Dustin Cook’s first season at the helm – the Greyhounds also went 4-6.
“I’d like to take a little bit of timeout and just speak on the season as a whole and what it meant to the leadership of our seven seniors that have obviously been through the struggles of the program,” said Cook. “To see their successes and see what they were able to do and how much they were able to grow from their freshman year – I couldn’t be more proud of those seven young men.”
It looked like Manchester might be able to keep up with the Eagles in a shootout, after Spencer found the end zone from 37 yards out for an early 8-0 lead. Nick Woolard returned the ensuing kick to the Eastern Pike 30-yard line, but a horse caller tackle tacked on 15 additional yards, and the Greyhounds eventually scored on a 14-yard pass from Shaun Gould to Avery Reed, which ended up being the team’s only completion on the night.
But it was all Eagles from there, as they used a 75-yard run from Spencer and a 28-yard pass from Drake Myers to Logan Clemmons to lead, 22-7, at the end of the first quarter.
They didn’t slow down from there, either.
Gould was sacked on the opening play of the second quarter to bring up fourth down, and Wesley Hodge returned the Manchester punt 50 yards for the score.
Myers hit Parker Clemmons with a 17-yard touchdown pass with 5:13 remaining in the frame for a 36-7 advantage, and Spencer added another six points in the half on his third touchdown, this time from the 9-yard line.
With a running clock and a 35-point deficit, the game was already out of reach for Manchester, but they came into the second half swinging, after finishing the first half with less than 10 yards of total offense.
“They were a very, very physical team, and up front they won the battle in the trenches and that’s football,” said Cook. “Usually the team that can win the battle in the trenches usually comes out on top on the scoreboard and that’s what happened tonight.”
Gould found the end zone on a 6-yard run on the opening drive of the half, but that was all of the scoring from the Greyhounds.
Eastern Pike had some gas left in the tank, scoring on a 43-yard run from Spencer to hold a 48-13 lead after three quarters, and adding two more scores in the final frame. Spencer had a 27-yard touchdown run and Logan Clemmons recovered a fumble and returned it 45 yards to cap off the 64-13 win.
“Luke Spencer is a kid who didn’t even start playing until school started. He didn’t start running the ball until about three weeks ago,” said Tomlison. “Very athletic kid. He played for us last year as a sophomore, but he was a defensive lineman. He didn’t play any offense. We think he can be a good running back, so the last three games we started using him a little bit.”
Spencer finished with five touchdowns and 270 yards on 15 carries, while Myers added 51 yards on the ground on six carries and 59 yards through the air.
Gould led Manchester with 81 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. The 14-yard touchdown was the only pass completed of the six he attempted.
Manchester ends the season at 4-6, while Eastern Pike’s season comes to a close at 5-5.
“Unfortunately, there’s no week 11 for us,” said Cook. “The guys that play basketball will get ready to do that, and for everybody else, we’ll take a month off here and try to be the best team we can be next year.”