MINERVA: The game plan for the Manchester football team Saturday night was simple: Run the ball until Columbiana Crestview showed resistance.
The resistance never came as Manchester’s offensive line provided the push and the Panthers running backs provided the speed and elusiveness to earn a 69-21 victory in the Division V, Region 15 final at Minerva’s Dr. Robert H. Hines Stadium.
Simply put, Manchester (11-2) dominated Crestview (11-2) on offense, defense and special teams when each team’s first strong units squared off on a chilly and snowy evening. Manchester advances to a state semifinal next Saturday for the second time in program history. It will play Columbus Bishop Hartley.
Juniors Mason Hayes, Anthony Miltner and Dan Leemaster joined senior John Beavers to consistently rush the ball behind a solid Panthers offensive line.
Manchester ran 64 offensive plays — all were rushes — for more than 600 yards.
That’s right: Manchester never threw a pass. Junior quarterback Pavin Parks never needed to throw the ball with the Panthers’ rushing attack in full force and the lead growing rapidly.
“I am proud of our offensive line and our running backs,” Manchester’s 42-year coach Jim France said. “That was a pretty tough 600 yards, but you gotta give them credit for playing good, hard football.”
Hayes rushed for five touchdowns and gained 273 yards on 25 carries. He broke tackle attempts throughout the game and scored on runs of 3, 1, 3, 2 and 70 yards.
“This feels great,” Hayes said.
“This was a great experience tonight. It is a great feeling to be part of a tradition like this.”
Miltner rushed for two touchdowns and 191 yards on 15 carries.
“My toes are freezing, but it is OK because we won,” Miltner said. “We came out and played hard as a team.”
Leemaster added two rushing touchdowns and Beavers rushed for another. Senior Matt Eidom converted seven point-after touchdown kicks.
When asked if he remembered a rushing performance like this, France, 70, said: “No, I can’t. My memory is not that good for one thing, but I don’t think we have had 600 yards, especially just on the ground. We have had 500 passing and running, but this was all running tonight. That is what we like to do.”
Manchester, which only had two rushes go for negative yardage, took control of the game quickly and scored touchdowns on its opening seven drives. The score went from 14-0 after one quarter to 42-0 at halftime to 49-7 following three quarters.
Seniors Jacob Hanzel, Kodi Berry and David Gresham joined sophomore John Durgala and junior Drew Brasiel on the offensive line and established the running game.
“This is a great win,” Hanzel said. “We all went out there and executed. We did everything we were supposed to do. We played 100 percent.”
Crestview turned the ball over on its opening two possessions. Manchester senior Aaron Hoxworth snagged an interception, and senior Dakota Craig recovered a fumble. Seniors Justin Winter, Austin Wright and Bobby Bowen flew around defensively.
In the first half, Hayes rushed for 193 yards on 22 carries and Miltner had 152 yards on 10 carries.
Senior quarterback Collin Gilbert rushed for two touchdowns for Crestview, and senior running back Trevor Cope rushed for a touchdown.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ. and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.