Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to an opponent and say, “Job well done.” That was pretty much the scenario the West Holmes Knights faced on Friday, Sept. 15 when they traveled to Mansfield Senior High School to face a talented Tygers team.
While the Knights did a great job containing most of the Tygers, a one-man wrecking crew by the name of Jornell Manns proved to be the big difference in Senior’s week for a 41-27 victory that dropped the Knights to 0-4.
Manns, who is bound for the University of Minnesota after his high school playing days are over, showed the Friday night crowd exactly why he was such a highly recruited college prospect by scoring a whopping five touchdowns to lead the Tygers to victory.
Manns opened the scoring by racing to a 31-yard touchdown to spot the Tygers to a 6-0 lead on their opening drive. He then bumped the Tygers’ lead up to 13-0 in the first quarter when he went in for a 1-yard plunge.
The score ballooned to 19-0 in the beginning of the second quarter when Tre’Suan Windham roared in from 36 yards, and the Knights seemed to be on the precipice of falling off the edge of the cliff, down three scores as the half neared.
However, West Holmes got a huge boost in momentum and confidence before the half when Gavin Sheldon, who had a pretty strong game himself, plowed in from 13-yards out to trim the deficit to 20-6 at the break.
West Holmes got the kick-off to begin the second half, and Sheldon showed off some nifty moves and a bit of speed when he grabbed a Bridger Cline pass and bolted 50 yards to pay dirt. Suddenly West Holmes was right back in it at 20-13.
Manns was not going to have any part of a Knights uprising, and his 2-yard score lifted the Tygers back up to a 27-13 lead. After Senior created a turnover, Manns went back to work and scored again on a 2-yard run to put West Holmes squarely behind the eight ball, trailing 34-13.
Again the Knights fought for their lives, and again it was a positive response. Again it would be Sheldon finding the end zone, this time on an 8-yard rushing touchdown that got West Holmes within 34-20.
However, just as he had done the whole game, Manns would come through for the Tygers. He sprinted his way to a 36-yard touchdown and gave the Tygers some breathing room at 41-20, and just as they had done several times before, the Knights battled back. A terrific effort produced a Bridger Cline to Shane Jones 18-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter as the Knights clung to hope.
West Holmes then got a stop and drove down the field but couldn’t quite punch it in with just over two minutes remaining, the drive stalling out near Mansfield Senior’s 10-yard line. West Holmes forced a late Tygers’ punt and took over near midfield, but the Knights were unable to avoid what had been a ferocious Senior pass rush all night and fell 41-27.
The Tygers racked up all kinds of rushing numbers against the Knights’ defense, totaling 358 yards on the ground. In what was no surprise, Senior was led by Manns, who totaled five scores on 19 rushing attempts for 131 yards. He was far from the lone success story on the ground for Senior though. Windham went for 110 yards on 16 carries, and the Tygers averaged just over 7 yards per carry, making it tough for West Holmes to stop them.
The Knights were paced by Sheldon’s two rushing touchdowns and one score through the air, Sheldon racking up 83 total yards. Brayden Chaney continued his assault on opposing defenses as the senior do-it-all snared seven Cline offerings for a nice night of 135-yards receiving. Grady Hay added 53 receiving yards on three catches. Cline finished the night going 13-of-33 passing for 272 yards, adding a pair of touchdown strikes. He also was intercepted twice.
The effort by the Knights continued a trend of the team playing very hard and playing well in spurts. However, the lack of numbers and a lot of players playing on both sides of the ball continued to wear West Holmes down as the game progressed.
While it was the fourth Knights’ loss in four weeks, the needle seems to be pointing in the right direction as excitement continues to build as the team seems poised to pick up the pace in the win column.