NEW FRANKLIN: Seniors Nick Peyakov and Jamar Dukes have combined to give Manchester football opponents fits all season.
The dynamic duo continued to connect in the passing game Friday, and in this game, they were Triway’s problem.
Peyakov had three touchdown passes to Dukes, including the game-winner with 38 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, to lift host Manchester to an exciting 34-31 victory at James R. France Stadium.
The win keeps Manchester’s playoff hopes alive in Division IV and also puts them in the top spot of the PAC standings with a 5-3 overall record and a 4-1 league mark.
Triway (5-3, 3-2) held a 25-14 halftime lead, but the Titans could not answer the Panthers’ rally.
Triway sophomore quarterback Parker Carmichael threw a 55-yard pass to senior Luke Boreman to give the Titans hope after Manchester’s final score, but a 23-yard field goal attempt went wide right as time expired.
“I told the kids after the game that I love their heart, the fact that they didn’t give up and the fact that they just kept plugging away,” Manchester coach Jim France said. “But we didn’t play very well. We had the three fumbles in the first half, and one of them directly led to a touchdown for them. Another one stopped a drive for us, and then we had [too many penalties], too.”
Peyakov and Dukes’ final touchdown went for 21 yards and erased a four-point deficit to conclude the scoring.
“Jamar and I didn’t have much time during the first two years that I started, but this year he has really come around and started working harder like coach has said in practice,” Peyakov said. “He finally realized that it is time to get it done, and that last drive just shows all the hard work he has put in, and running all those routes every day as hard as he can and just going up to catch balls in drills during practice.”
Peyakov, 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, completed 20-of-33 passes for 279 yards.
Dukes, who is 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, was his top target with 12 receptions for 148 yards.
“Every game I just go up to Peyakov and I tell him that if he gives Chad Robertson or I, or even the back side receiver the ball, we will catch it,” Dukes said. If you throw the ball in our hands, we will catch the ball.”
Manchester took the opening possession of the game 79 yards on nine plays to take a 7-0 lead with 8:17 to go in the first quarter. Peyakov capped the drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
Triway outscored Manchester 25-7 in the second quarter with help from two Panthers fumbles. Carmichael tossed two touchdown passes and rushed for another in the quarter.
Senior Kyle Kearney caught a 13-yard touchdown pass, and sophomore Jordon Miller caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Carmichael.
Boreman made Manchester pay when he picked up a fumble and ran 8 yards for a touchdown, and Carmichael also had a 5-yard touchdown run.
Peyakov’s other touchdown passes to Dukes were 34-yard and 16-yard strikes in the middle quarters.
Manchester’s defense tightened up in the second half. Senior Logan Hull blocked a Triway field-goal attempt and also had multiple tackles for loss. Senior Rich Ashley made a key sack to force a punt and junior Dakota Craig blocked a punt.
“Our kids didn’t quit,” France said. “They kept coming and coming and coming. They kept playing hard. It was a great victory for us.”
Peyakov and Carmichael both had a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“It was one of those ups and downs type of games. I am really proud of the way the kids kept playing. Jamar did a nice job catching the ball and Nick made a great pass.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. 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.