“Defense was, hands down, the star of the game,” said Crimsons coach Scott Carmony.
Manual came out Friday night and dominated Fern Creek on both sides of the ball, leading to a 14-0 victory in its home opener.
The Crimsons (2-0) limited the Tigers (1-1) to just three first downs and 74 total yards. Manual recorded tackles for loss on nine of Fern Creek’s 36 plays and held its guests to just four yards offense in the second half.
“Defense was, hands down, the star of the game,” said Crimsons coach Scott Carmony. “They won this game for us.”
But it wasn’t just the defense that put forward a bruising effort, as Manual set the tone early. Case in point, facing a third and four at the Tigers 19 midway through the first quarter, Marcis Floyd ran a sweep. It appeared the junior back would be stopped short of the line to gain. Instead, he plowed past his tackler and rambled to the Tigers’ 3. Two plays later, Andre Teague’s 7-yard run put the Crimsons on the board.
“We just run down, run down, run, run, run,” said Floyd, whose 91 yards on 18 carries led the way for the Crimsons. Manual, the No. 7 team in the Associated Press’ state Class 6-A poll, ran 44 times, gaining 200 of its 258 yards on the ground.
After capitalizing on big plays last week in beating Central, the Crimsons offense focused on just wearing down the Tigers, the No. 6 team in the AP’s Class 5-A poll. Their two scoring drives in the first half consisted of 10 and 11 plays, respectively. Manual also converted on 5 of 6 third downs in the first two quarters.
The only time they were stopped on third down in the first half, the Crimsons simply converted on fourth. From the Tigers 25, quarterback Will Britt lobbed a perfect pass into the endzone over two Tigers defensive backs and right into the chest of Matt Motley that made it 14-0 with 5:37 left in the half.
Fern Creek coach Josh Abell said he told his team earlier in the week that the game would be won on the line of scrimmage.
“It wasn’t the skill players,” he said. “It wasn’t the receivers or (defensive backs) or tight ends. It was the guys up front, and they’re huge. And we just got it handed to us up front on both sides of the ball.”
Once again, however, Manual couldn’t keep hold of the ball after it took a two-score lead. For the second straight week, the Crimsons committed three turnovers. However, Manual again avoided disaster as the Tigers couldn’t capitalize on any of the fumbles they recovered.
Kyree Hawkins recovered one fumble at midfield with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. He scrambled all the way to the endzone, but a holding call behind him negated the touchdown that would have made it a one-score game.
The holding call was one of seven penalties, amassing 75 yards, called against Fern Creek. Instead of scoring a momentum-turning touchdown, Fern Creek took possession at the Crimsons 25 and lost it on downs four plays later.
“We weren’t going to be able to nickel and dime them down the field and win this ballgame,” Abell said. “We needed to make big plays, and it just wasn’t enough. And when we needed the big plays, we couldn’t come up with them.”
Carmony said the way his team has played against tough opponents in the opening weeks will help them prepare for district play in the weeks ahead.
“Fern Creek is a really good football team, and they do a great job of what they do,” Carmony said. “This was a really good win for us because of that. We’ve played two quality teams in a row, no doubt about it.”