NORTH MANCHESTER – After rolling to victories in the previous three weeks, the Manchester Squires were stopped in their tracks by Peru Friday night in a 33-14 Tiger victory. Manchester finishes its regular season with a 4-4 record, and will have to win at least two games in the sectional tournament to clinch the program’s first winning season since 2009.

It was an emotional day for the Squires and head coach Alyx Brandewie. The team celebrated senior night, honoring 10 players: Dominic Lincoln, Braxton Ream, Jace Judy, Dylan Stroud, A.J. Fortman, Seth Gaerte, Josiah Hackworth, Justin Hall, Trevor Dill and Jackson Austin.

“They are a special group. They’re special because you never see people buy into something that’s bigger than them as much as this group of seniors has,” Brandiewie said, holding back tears. “I’m incredibly grateful to be a small part of a program that they’re leading. I love those guys and we’re pretty fortunate to have them.”

Peru came into the contest averaging 263 rushing yards per game, and showed why early on in this one. On the Tigers first drive of the ballgame, quarterback Levi Strong took a keeper 31 yards to the house to open up the scoring. It was one of three touchdowns that Strong scored with his legs in the game.

It didn’t get much easier for the Squires defending the run, as Peru scored on every drive of the first half minus their last, which ended at the halftime break. The Tigers took a 19-0 lead into the locker room, and looked dominant in doing so.

“They just come at you over and over again. Once you string together a few nice stops and think you’re not getting gashed, they hit a big one,” Brandewie said. “We got ourselves out of position a few times tonight and that’s on us to put our kids in a position to have success.”

It looked as if the momentum might shift in the Squires favor for a brief moment at the beginning of the second half, when on the first play from scrimmage, Dominic Lincoln stripped the ball out of a Peru player’s hands, recovered it himself, and took it 30 yards to the end zone to put Manchester on the board. But Peru would get the seven points right back on the ensuing drive.

On the other side of the ball, the Squire offense that averaged 37.3 points per game during the win streak had a tough time getting going in this one. The team went three-and-out on its first two drives and struggled getting much going. Braxton Ream, who carried the ball 21 times for 86 yards and a score, scored the lone offensive touchdown. Dylan Stroud led all receivers with two catches for 17 yards, as well as three kickoff returns of 20+ yards.

Junior quarterback Brock Casper, who had thrown for eight touchdowns in the previous three games as well as 541 yards, had difficulty finding his receivers all night long. Casper finished the game 9-19 for 41 yards and an interception.

“I don’t think we gave him enough throws early that were comfort throws for him, throws to get him in a rythem,” Brandewie said. “As the play caller, that’s on me. We started to find some of it late, but we didn’t handle their pressure up front as well as I would have liked. Just not what we were hoping for.

Next up for the Squires is a home sectional match up with Bremen Friday night.

“I haven’t seen a whole lot of them on film but I know from previous experience they’re going to be big, physical and run the ball. We got to figure out what we’re going to do defensively, and offensively, have to figure out how to deal with that pressure,” Brandewie said.