DALZELL -- In a game that saw almost as many punts as points, Manning High School's offense finally broke through with a big play late in the fourth quarter to secure a 14-7 win over Crestwood Friday …
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DALZELL -- In a game that saw almost as many punts as points, Manning High School's offense finally broke through with a big play late in the fourth quarter to secure a 14-7 win over Crestwood on Friday at Donald L. Crolley Memorial Stadium.
The game-winning play came at the 3:04 mark of the final quarter as Monarch quarterback Jack Owens connected with Aaron Smith on a 66-yard touchdown pass, with Smith running for 50 yards after catching the pass on what MHS head coach Keith West called a 15-yard out route.
"Aaron made a great play at the end," said West, whose team evened its record at 2-2. "He caught a comeback on the sideline, they missed a tackle, he came back across the grain and took it to the house."
The win served as sweet redemption for Owens, who cost his team a win last week against Lakewood by running into his own end zone for a safety on the final play of a 27-26 loss. Before the winning connection with Smith, Owens had taken five unsuccessful shots at the end zone, including three on the last possession of the first half, and had a touchdown get away when Smith fumbled the ball out of the end zone trying to stretch for a score earlier in the final quarter. The Smith fumble resulted in a touchback and change of possession.
"They were playing one high safety, one deep safety, so you can't really run a post to the middle of the field," West said of the missed scoring opportunities. "That just kind of limits you because they're one-on-one down the sideline. We should have caught one, caught another one where we were barely out of bounds, had one go through our hands and fumbled at the 1, so we were close. If we catch just one of those earlier, that gives us a little breathing room. We could have put some more points on the board tonight."
MHS took over at the Crestwood 29 with 1:44 to go and kept it on the ground, with four Darias Williams' runs taking it to the 1. When the time came, Owens took the knee and closed out the win.
"It was a little bit easier this time because we were at the 1," West said. They were out of time outs and we had just got the first down. We could have scored there, but we didn't want to risk running a play, fumbling and giving it back so we said let's just kneel on it and get the game over. I think he's (Owens) ready to go. He threw the ball all over the field tonight, out nit dead on the money all night long. Every long pass he threw was right there where it could have been caught, could have been a jump ball, could have been a touchdown. He is a great kid, great leader, does everything the right way and that (safety play against Lakewood) was just a total fluke."
Before Smith's late score, the teams had combined for 12 punts while battling to a 7-7 stalemate. Crestwood fumbled the ball away on the opening kickoff, but the Knights defense held after a sack for a 10-yard loss on third down and Owens throwing incomplete on fourth. The game remained scoreless through one quarter, but the home team found the end zone on the first play of the second quarter. Quarterback Clayton Feagin flipped a shuttle pass to Christopher Haynesworth on a 13-yard play that capped a 5-play, 27-yard drive after the Knights' defense had held the Monarchs on downs.
The Monarchs' first score came after another CHS fumble, with MHS taking over at the Knights' 10 after a bad exchange on a handoff. Williams would take it in two plays later, tying the score at 7-7 with 7:23 to go in the opening half.
"It just came down to one play, a missed tackle there, but it was a great game," said CHS head coach Roosevelt Nelson, whose team fell to a hard-luck 0-4. "Manning made one more play than us down the stretch. We've got to suck it up and take this one. I think defensively we played well enough to win the game. We've just got to keep working on it. I want my team to have success and we've got to keep working for it."
West also praised the play of his defense, which he said has been the one constant through the Monarchs' first four games.
"Our defense has played great every game this year," West said. "Hats off to them. They're playing their hearts out every game. We put them in bad position last week and I think we put them in bad position one time tonight. We just couldn't get anything going offensively. Hats off to them (Crestwood). We could not run the ball. We struggled running. Our quarterback had some rushing yards, but we're not getting anything out of our running backs now. We've got to try to fix that. Our passing game was okay tonight, not bad. That kind of carried us."
Crestwood hosts Darlington on Friday while Manning travels to Lake City as both schools close out non-region play.
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