Central’s defending Class 3-A state champions were no match for 6-A Manual, a 17-7 victor Friday night in the season opener at Manual Stadium.
The Crimsons of coach Oliver Lucas capitalized on two short Central punts and a pass interception to jump to a 17-0 halftime lead, and the Manual defense made life tough on the Yellowjackets until they finally scored with 6:46 left in the contest.
“We had opportunities to do more, but we made mistakes, too,” Lucas said after his Crimsons avenged a 29-7 loss to Central last year. “Our defense was outstanding and wouldn’t give them anything. Our D-line dominated. They were unbelievable.”
Michael Nero, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior who was a backup quarterback last year, looked strong in his debut as a running back. He carried 16 times for 77 yards, including runs of 12, 14, 15 and 23 yards and a 3-yard touchdown run that made it 17-0 with 7:59 left in the second quarter.
“Once he figured it out, he ran the ball well,” Lucas said. “He did a great job.”
Nero said, “I like running back. I like running through holes and seeing the defenders make their moves. But without my line blocking, I get nothing.”
Jordan White had 37 yards on four carries, including a 21-yard run on the game’s first play before fumbling the ball away. Nero took over after that, but White caught an 11-yard TD pass from quarterback Mason Motley to start the scoring.
Manual dominated both lines of scrimmage and numerous times sacked Central quarterbacks Sydney Tedford and Myron Norfleet.
“We knew Manual was huge and we would have our work cut out for us,” said Central coach Ty Scroggins. “Before the game we knew we could live with penalties, but we couldn’t deal with turnovers.”
Tyler Martin-Miles got Manual going when he intercepted a pass by Tedford early In the first quarter and ran 27 yards to the Yellowjackets’ 25. Four plays later, Spencer Satterly kicked a 42-yard field goal.
Tedford failed to connect on his first seven passes and a poor punt by Central gave Manual the ball on the Yellowjackets’ 39. It took the Crimsons six plays to score. White ran for 12 yards, then Motley passed for 14 to Matthew Cissell. He then hit White with his TD pass with 46.1 seconds left in the quarter.
An 11-yard punt by Central gave Manual the ball on the Yellowjackets’ 28 and the Crimsons scored again in six plays. Nero gained 29 yards on four straight runs before crossing the goal from 3 yards.
Norfleet, who replaced Tedford, hit Marcus Manion on a 28-yard pass to the Manual three with 39 seconds left in the half. But Devon Adams fumbled the ball into the hands of a Manual defender in the end zone on the next play.
Central put linebacker Phillip Francis at running back in the second half and featured Norfleet and his receivers. Norfleet hit Marcus Manion on a 66-yard pass and then found Paul White in the end zone for a 13-yard TD strike.
“That might be the way we have to go next,” Scroggins said about having Norfleet and Francis in the backfield together.