MANNING -- Manning High School's varsity football team once again showed a flair for the dramatic on Friday.
This time, it was the defense's turn to come up with the clutch play.
Two weeks after the offense delivered a score with less than 35 seconds on the clock to pull out a 21-20 win over Crestwood at Ramsey Stadium, David Fulton snagged a victory-clinching interception with 1:35 to go as the Monarchs ran their record to 6-0 with a 28-27 win over May River.
The win came in front of a raucous Homecoming crowd that included representation from a record 30 MHS alumni classes, with designated tailgating spots for each class lined up and down the entranceway to the stadium.
"Great atmosphere," said MHS head coach Keith West. "The fans did a great job of coming out and supporting us tonight. We were expecting a big crowd. We had a big crowd last year and we were expecting a bigger crowd this year."
Fulton's interception came after May River had taken over at its 23 with 2:29 to go. Sharks quarterback Ahmad Green threw two incompletions, sandwiched around a 4-yard Cam Adams run. Facing fourth down and six yards to go from the MR 27, Green's final pass of the night landed in Fulton's arms at the 42, allowing the Monarchs to run off the final 1:28 and keep their record perfect.
"Our coaches did a great job tonight," West said. "Defensively, they came up with two big interceptions for us early in the game. One was a pick-6 (returning interception for a touchdown) and the other one set up a touchdown. We got a big interception late in the game to seal the game. Offensively, we did just enough to win."
The Monarchs' first interception of the night came from Caleb White, setting up an 11-yard scoring pass from Jack Owens to Darias Williams with 7:12 on the first-quarter clock. Three plays later, after the Sharks had recovered a fumbled snap, Dierell Parker corralled a Green pass and raced 32 yards to the end zone, pushing the MHS lead to 14-0 with 5:39 left in the opening quarter.
The visitors from Bluffton answered with a scoring drive of their own, going 61 yards in seven plays. Much of the damage was done on the ground, until Green went to the air and found Hunter Singletary open for a 12-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 14-7 at the 2:31 mark.
Midway through the second quarter, the Sharks embarked on what would be a 6-play, 86-yard game-tying drive. Green and Adams ran the option to perfection, with Green rushing twice for 32 yards and Adams going for the remaining 54 yards on four totes, including 16 yards for the score. making it 14-14 with 6:27 to go in the half.
MHS took over at its 38 after a short kick on the kickoff and went on a methodical, time-consuming 12-play drive that ended with a 9-yard Cam'ron Cain run, giving the Monarchs a 21-14 lead that they would take to the break. With the Sharks defense keying on Cain early in the contest, Williams provided a spark with three rushes for 29 yards to help set up Cain's score.
The second half got off to a promising start for MHS as Fulton returned the opening kickoff 28 yards to the Monarch 44. Two plays later, Owens hooked up with Fulton for 39 yards to the May River 18. However, the Sharks came away with a fumble recovery on the next play.
After taking over at its 18, a pair of penalties pushed May River back into a first-and 25 at the 3. A 6-yard run by Green and 1-yard dive by Adams set up a third-and-18 from the 10. Green faded back, looked down the sidelines and lofted a pass that Melvin Liverman grabbed in stride and outraced all Manning defenders for 90 yards and a touchdown that once again tied the score, 21-21.
"That should never happen," West said. "I mean, third-and-(long), they throw a bomb, we're in cover-4 and they still get behind us. If that doesn't happen then I think we're about to take control of the game again right there. But, hey, give our kids credit. They're resilient, they didn't quit, and somebody's on our side this year. We'll keep taking it."
The Sharks defense held the Monarchs without a first down on the next series. May River was able to turn the field as Bryan Morez's 23-yard punt was returned 27 yards by Terry Fields, setting up the Sharks at the MHS 35. A 27-yard run by Green got the ball into the red zone and Green ran it in from one yard out, giving May River a 27-21 lead with 5:19 to go in the third.
May River head coach Rodney Summers then dialed up a fake kick attempt on the conversion. The ball came back to kicker Bryce Summers, who lofted a pass to the end zone that fell incomplete.
The Monarchs were able to take advantage of that gutsy but unsuccessful call on their next possession, with Cain finding the end zone on an 18-yard run to cap a 10-play, 64-yard drive and Morez once again adding what would turn out to be the game-winning kick with 15.1 seconds left in the thiird quarter.
"Me and Coach Summers, we've worked together. We had a good conversation after the game and he said he didn't think that they could stop us," West said. "He felt like we were going to score again to tie it up. They've got nothing to lose, they're a new school, he's trying to build some momentum with his kids and he was trying to grab control of the game with a 2-point (conversion). He felt like he had to go for two either now or in overtime, so he was ready to do it right there and try to put the pressure on us, had we come out and scored.
“So, hey, hats off to them, because they've done a great job being a second-year program. They've come a long way, and they do a great job over there."