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NORTH MANCHESTER — Not only did Whitko pick up another conference win Friday night, Wildcat head coach Wayne Swender got his first win against Manchester 27-7.
“We’ve been proud of our defense all year long and they won the game for us,” Swender said.
After three close quarters of play, the game was a sealed deal after a big defensive play by the Wildcat defense in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Ben Bryan stepped in front of a Squire pass, picking up an interception that lead the ’Cats to a confidence killing touchdown.
“We jammed it down their throat,” said Whitko receiver Derek Snep.
It was apparent that Manchester lost all momentum and had little hope for a comeback.
“We lost composure, we still had time, but we panicked,” said Manchester head coach Brandon Baker.
In the first half, the teams appeared to be pretty evenly matched.
With the game tied at 7-7, Manchester had possession in the final minutes of the half.
At fourth and six with the ball on the 16 yard line, the Squires set up for what appeared to be a field goal kick.
Manchester ran a fake field goal play and sent the ball right to the chest of a Squire receiver. The ball bounced out of his hands in what would have been a touchdown.
“When we get opportunities like that we have to execute,” Baker said.
Remembering their encounter last season, Manchester ran very tight defense on Snep, attempting to shut down long receptions from quarterback Alex Stoddard.
“Snep is just a good athlete, a great athlete,” Swender commented.
Unfortunately for the Squires, Snep and Stoddard still found a way to connect. Snep caught four out of five passes for a total of 81 yards.
“He (Snep) always finds a way to get open,” Stoddard noted.
The receivers aren’t the only ones who can gain the credit for the touchdowns, Dakota Harmon picked up two touchdowns of his own.
With the score tied 7-7 towards the end of the third quarter, the ’Cats utilized several different players to bring the ball down the field, leading to Harmon’s second touchdown of the night from within the five yard line.
Stoddard found Snep for a 39-yard pass downfield, giving Whitko a first-and-10 on Manchester’s 27 yard line. From there, Runningback D.J. Fouce took over with four consecutive carries, bringing the ball to the 10 yard line.
It was Harmon who finished the drive, pounding the ball through the Squire defensive line and to the end zone, making the score 14-7.
Harmon and Fouce rushed the ball 15 times each, for a shared 125 yards. The duo also lead the team in tackles, Fouce picking up 11 and Harmon with 10.
After the interception by Bryan, it was rushes by Fouce and Harmon that brought the ball into scoring range. Stoddard had plenty of time to find Scott Skiles wide open in the end zone from 11 yards out, burying Manchester in an even deeper hole, 20-7 with 8:19 left in the game.
Stoddard had an outstanding night with six completions on eight attempts. It was apparent that his pass protection was much improved from the previous weeks.
“We spent a lot of time in practice this week on the offensive line,” Stoddard said.
Whitko’s passing yards more than doubled the Squires, out passing them 106-45.
“We’ve started controlling momentum and controlling the line of scrimmage,” Swender said.
The Wildcats advanced to 3-1 and are undefeated in the conference at 2-0.