Taking Flight: Manchester tops unbeaten Barnegat for best start since 2003
MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP – This year has been, in a word, terrible. But on the football field, it has been anything but that for the Manchester Hawks.
Junior quarterback Savon Myers threw for 222 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns as the Hawks rallied from a 10-point deficit to score a 27-16 victory over previously-undefeated Barnegat on Saturday afternoon. Manchester is now 3-1 for the first time since 2003.
“One of the things we talk a lot about is dealing with adversity,” said head coach Brian Wilkinson, the veteran coach who is in his first year leading Manchester. “We were down in the first game and came back (a 12-3 win over Lacey) and now against another real good program to be able to do that again, I’m proud of our kids. They’ve come a long way.”
After a mistakenly-run fake punt that didn’t work on Manchester’s first offensive series, Barnegat used the short field to take a quick 7-0 lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by senior running back Nik DiLeo. Sacks by Jerry Weir and TJ Stokes nuked Manchester’s second drive and forced the Hawks to punt from their own 5-yard line. That resulted in great field position yet again for the Bengals, who stalled at the 10-yard line and settled for a 27-yard field goal by Matt Xiques to go up 10-0 with 8:05 left in the first half.
At this point, Barnegat was dominating the scoreboard and the time of possession, leading by 10 and having run 21 plays to just seven for Manchester. But over the next eight minutes, the Hawks settled down, settled in and took over the game.
Myers led an eight-play, 70-yard scoring drive with his arm and his legs, breaking a 20-yard run to move the ball into Barnegat territory and connecting with senior wide receiver Gavin Clark for a 32-yard gain down to the 2-yard line. On first-and-goal, Myers surged forward and into the end zone and Evan Weiner followed with the extra point to cut Barnegat’s lead to 10-7 with 4:14 left in the half.
“He came out for football this year and obviously we were excited about his size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds),” Wilkinson said. “He’s a great kid and he’s starting to take charge of the offense. He’s growing into the position and I’m proud of him and the job he’s doing with the offense, no question.”
Manchester’s defense then forced a three-and-out, and the Hawks’ offense needed just two plays to take the lead for good. After an 18-yard reception by junior D’Maari Brown, Barnegat’s secondary lost Josh Glenn in coverage and Myers easily found the wide-open senior for a 54-yard touchdown. Weiner’s extra point gave the Hawks a 14-0 lead which they held through halftime.
“Our kids play as a unit and really buy into trusting the other guy and focusing on doing their job,” Wilkinson said. “We were a little sloppy in the beginning but once we settled down I thought our kids did a great job.”
The Hawks opened the second half with another impressive drive, going 80 yards in six plays to extend their lead to 21-10. On first down at the 30-yard line, Brown took a quick pass and turned it into a 43-yard gain to the Barnegat 27-yard line. On the next play, Glenn made a contested catch for a 23-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Myers powered in from five yards out on a quarterback keeper to give Manchester an 11-point lead.
“We know what we have and you feel like when you can throw the ball you’re never out of the game,” Wilkinson said. “We just kept telling our kids to stay calm and we’ll have our chances to hit home runs, and when we got them we took advantage of them.”
Manchester’s defense continued to play well and forced another three-and-out. Barnegat punted from its own 20-yard line and a personal foul against the Bengals on the play ended up giving Manchester the ball at the 15-yard line. Barnegat’s defense dug its heels in and forced the Hawks to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Weiner as Manchester pushed its lead to 24-10.
Manchester forced turnovers on the next two Barnegat series as senior Sean Snead picked off an errant pass by Xiques and senior Chris Grille recovered a fumble. With 4:20 left in the game, Weiner connected on a 33-yard field goal to extend the Hawks’ edge to 27-10.
Barnegat added a late touchdown when Xiques found senior Andrew Vernieri for a 7-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left.
Next week, Manchester will host a 3-1 Keansburg team also off to one of its best starts in nearly two decades.
“We talk all the team about each week is a season and we want to go 1-0, because at any time it could be ripped from us,” Wilkinson said. “You keep putting 1-0 together and you look back and it’s a pretty good season. Our goal this week was 1-0 and our goal next week is 1-0. The kids are buying in and giving us everything they have.”
Manchester 27, Barnegat 16
B – Nik DiLeo 2-yard run (Matt Xiques kick)
B – Matt Xiques 27-yard field goal
M – Savon Myers 2-yard run (Evan Weiner kick)
M – Josh Glenn 54-yard pass from Savon Myers (Evan Weiner kick)
M – Savon Myers 5-yard run (Evan Weiner kick)
M – Evan Weiner 19-yard field goal
M – Evan Weiner 33-yard field goal
B – Andrew Vernieri 8-yard pass from Matt Xiques (run failed)
RUSHING – B: Nik DiLeo 14-46, JoJo Bivins 7-41, Nasiem Lee 2-14, Team 1-(-5); M: Savon Myers 19-29, Josh Glenn 10-28, D’Maari Brown 1-5.
PASSING – B: Matt Xiques 10-24-1 80; M: Savon Myers 11-17-1 222, D’Maari Brown 1-1-0 4.
RECEIVING – B: Nick Danbrowney 2-37, Andrew Vernieri 4-21, Nasiem Lee 2-17, Nik DiLeo 2-5; M: Josh Glenn 3-82, D’Maari Brown 4-77, Gavin Clark 3-58, Sean Snead 1-5, Chris Grille 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS – B: Andrew Vernieri 1-6; M: Sean Snead 1-10.
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