WESTFIELD TWP. — Tons of big plays and one crucial no-call beat a ball-control offense Friday night at Gene Clark Stadium.
The Coventry football team scored three offensive touchdowns before the Cloverleaf defense made its first tackle, then held on for a 41-35 victory in a thrilling Portage Trail Conference Metro Division game.
In a game that featured six touchdowns of at least 30 yards — the Comets (2-2, 1-0) had five of at least 47 — the Colts (2-2, 0-1) seemed poised to cap a great comeback on a night when they trailed by at least 13 points on four occasions.
Up 41-35 with a little over four minutes remaining, Coventry faced third-and-8 from its own 22 when quarterback Andrew Arnold (12-for-17, 373 yards, 4 TDs; 11 rushes, 39 yards, TD) scrambled to buy time and lofted a pass toward Cody Juersivich (4 catches, 150 yards).
Juersivich dove and came down with the ball under his body, but it appeared as though the ball had hit the turf before he secured it. Compounding matters for Cloverleaf, a generous spot gave the Comets the ball at the 30 when it appeared as though Juersivich was down just past the 29.
Eight Coventry runs later, the game was over.
It was that kind of night for the Colts, who got three short touchdown runs from quarterback Brody Stallings (3-for-10 passing, 62 yards, INT; 24 rushes, 60 yards), a great game from running back John Manzuk (13 rushes, 138 yards, 2 TDs) and a strong effort from receiver Kodey Trent (6 rushes, 63 yards; 1 catch, 33 yards; 53-yard kickoff return).
“I’m proud of our kids for fighting, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss,” Cloverleaf coach Justin Vorhies said. “It’s one I believe, and all the kids believe, we should have had.”
The Colts went 90 yards in 10 plays on the first possession of the game, with Stallings capping the drive with a 2-yard run, but then gave up three long touchdowns before their defense made its first tackle.
On Coventry’s first play, Arnold threw a simple swing pass left to Austin Hinzman (3 catches, 155 yards), who went 50 yards down the sideline to tie the game.
On Coventry’s second play, Arnold threw a swing pass right to Hinzman, who got a great block at the line of scrimmage and then executed three stop-and-start moves downfield for a 93-yard TD.
On Coventry’s third play, receiver Justin Christian (5 carries, 78 yards, TD; 5 catches, 68 yards, TD) moved into the backfield, took a handoff and went 75 yards for a score.
“We spotted them three TDs right off the bat,” Vorhies said. “It’s hard to come back when you do that, but to our kids’ credit, they kept scratching and clawing. This is one of those that we didn’t lose, we just ran out of time.”
The Comets had a chance to go up 28-7 following a Cloverleaf turnover but failed to convert on fourth-and-goal from the 1. The Colts then went 99 yards in 11 plays, with Stallings going in from a yard out to make it 21-14.
Cloverleaf, however, misplayed a deep ball and Christian hauled in a 47-yard TD to make it 28-14 with 5:14 to play in the second quarter, at which time Arnold was 6-for-6 for 230 yards and three TDs.
It stayed that way until intermission, when Cloverleaf had a 15-7 edge in first downs and a 43-15 advantage in plays yet trailed by 14 points.
“We’re not disciplined,” Vorhies said of all the big plays. “We’re not tracking eyes. Those are things we practiced all week. Those are plays we got away with in Weeks 1 and 2, but the last two weeks we didn’t.”
A 43-yard jet sweep by Trent and a 30-yard TD run up the middle by Manzuk were all the Colts needed in a 15-second drive that made it 28-21 with 10:25 left in the third period, but Arnold answered almost immediately with a beautifully thrown 82-yard touchdown pass to Juersivich.
Trent’s 53-yard kick return set up a 35-yard drive and Stallings’ third TD to make it 35-28, but Arnold scored on an 8-yard run on the third play of the fourth quarter to put the Comets up 41-28.
Manzuk’s 15-yard score with 5:27 left gave Cloverleaf hope, but the Colts, whose 23 first downs were offset by allowing 531 yards, never got the ball back.
“We felt (Coventry’s defense) wilting away at the end,” Vorhies said. “Our O-line was taking over, but…”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Coventry 41, Cloverleaf 35
COVENTRY 21 7 7 6 — 41
CLOVERLEAF 7 7 14 7 — 35
Cl — Brody Stallings 2 run (Devin Tierney kick), 7:22.
Co — Austin Hinzman 50 pass from Andrew Arnold (Lucas Baker kick), 7:06.
Co — Hinzman 93 pass from Arnold (Baker kick), 3:29.
Co — Justin Christian 75 run (Baker kick), 1:04.
Cl — Stallings 1 run (Tierney kick), 7:29.
Co — Christian 47 pass from Arnold (Baker kick), 5:14.
Cl — John Manzuk 30 run (Tierney kick), 10:25.
Co — Cody Juersivich 82 pass from Arnold (Baker kick), 7:30.
Cl — Stallings 1 run (Tierney kick), 4:49.
Co — Arnold 8 run (kick failed), 10:28.
Cl — Manzuk 15 run (Tierney kick), 5:27.