BRIMFIELD TWP. — The Cloverleaf football team’s 50-point victory over Field was the high point of last season. A 34-32 Portage Trail Conference Metro Division triumph Friday night against the Falcons might rival that.
John Manzuk scored twice in the fourth quarter and the defense came up with a goal-line stand and stopped a two-point conversion with 15 seconds left as the Colts (4-5, 2-4) give themselves a chance at the school’s first .500 season since 2009.
“To have a chance at .500 is amazing, to be the comeback team,” Manzuk said.
After rushing for just 8 yards on nine carries in the first half, Manzuk had 150 yards and three touchdowns in the second, including 99 yards in the fourth quarter. He scored from a yard with 9:04 to play to give the Colts a 27-26 lead, then broke away from 50 yards with 2:27 left for a 34-26 lead.
“I knew it had to happen at some point,” Manzuk said of finding rushing room. “I had a bad first half, and I just hit the holes harder and stayed behind my blockers.”
The 50-yard score saw Manzuk find room down the right sideline and cut across the field to find daylight.
“I saw them creeping up on me, so I stopped in my tracks and they flew by,” he said. “It was a stressful situation and that gave us some breathing room.”
Cloverleaf’s defense set up Manzuk’s 50-yarder by stopping Field (1-8, 1-5) on downs after a first-and-goal at the 7, keyed by big plays up front from Ethan Sterling and Logan Henderson.
The final nail in the Falcons’ coffin came from Cloverleaf defensive back Blake Wilson.
After Field took over on its own 40 with 2:27 left, the Falcons drove and scored on an 8-yard pass from Dallas McAmis to Carter Baumberger with 15 seconds to play. Field threw for the two-point conversion to tie the game, but Wilson read the play and stuffed it short of the goal line.
“I saw they were running an arrow, so I looked in the quarterback’s eyes and went right toward it,” Wilson said.
“That was a heckuva play Blake Wilson made on the two-pointer,” Cloverleaf coach Justin Vorhies said. Wilson said the defense made big plays when it needed to Friday.
“We came together and played as a team, and that’s all we needed,” the sophomore said. “It’s very exciting to get the chance to get to .500. Now we’ve got to go get it done.”
Everything Cloverleaf got going early involved Brody Stallings. The junior quarterback carried 15 times for 75 yards and two scores and threw for 66 more yards in the first half. But the Colts also fumbled four times in the first half — five in all — to halt drives and momentum.
The difference at the break, though, was special teams. After Stallings capped a 60-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard run, a squibbed kickoff rolled to Field’s Nicholas Dopkosky, who picked it up on the run at the 17, found a seam and soared past the coverage for an 83-yard touchdown. A two-point run by McAmis gave the Falcons a 20-14 lead at the break.
“It was more of focusing on what we had to do,” Vorhies said of the halftime speech. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We just weren’t executing; we weren’t tackling cleanly. They’re an option team. They’re going to stress you.”
Evan Reinhart ran for 200 yards to lead the Falcons, while McAmis ran for 82 yards and three touchdowns.