Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union

Manchester senior Braxton Ream finds running room between a pair of Northfield runners in the first half
Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union Manchester senior Braxton Ream finds running room between a pair of Northfield runners in the first half
NORTH MANCHESTER – It was a case of too little, too late for the Manchester Squires offense after a 35-12 loss at the hands of Northfield Friday night in Three Rivers Conference football.

Manchester falls to 1-3 after winning its opening game.

Things started off well for the Squires. On just the fourth play of the game, quarterback Brock Casper found his tight end Caden Miller for a 30-yard gain that set Manchester up nicely in Norsemen territory. On the ensuing series however, the Squires would fail to get a first, turning the ball over on downs. Manchester would not return to the Northfield side of the field until the fourth quarter.

On the other side of the ball, the Squires suffered a death by paper cuts. Northfield lacked the big play, but consistently picked up multiple yards on each snap that allowed them to find the end zone consistently at the end of long drives.

“It’s a frustrating offense to play against,” Squires head coach Alyx Brandwie said. “From a physicality stand point, we need to keep getting better. We have to continue to be more physical at the point and a lot of that has to do with only seeing offenses like this once or twice a year. “

The Norsemen took a 21-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to a couple of short touchdown runs from running back Jaydan Goshert, The lone Squires highlight of the first half took place when the defense came up big with a 4th down stop at their own one yard line, preventing a Northfield touchdown. But a poor punt after the ensuing three-and-out gave the Norsemen the ball back at the seven, where they would convert for a score.

The third quarter wasn’t too kind to Manchester either. Northfield scored another touchdown within a minute of the second half beginning to take a commanding 28-0 lead. After a nice punt return started the Squires at their own 45, it looked as if they might finally cross the 50 for the first time since the opening drive. A fumble on the first play of the drive halted those hopes.

But in the fourth quarter, a switch flipped for Manchester. Casper started looking a lot more comfortable in the pocket, and started completing a flurry of passes. With a little under four and a half minutes to go in the game, the Squires finally hit pay dirt, when Casper found receiver Seth Gaerte for a 5-yard touchdown. Gaerte finished with a monster game, catching ten balls for 97 yards and a touchdown. Casper went 15-30 for 160 yards, a touchdown and a fumble.

“[Casper] finally relaxed and was playing like he was having fun running around and slinging it. All of the things high school football is supposed to be,” Brandwie said. “Hopefully that’s a first step for him moving forward because I really loved him in that second half. He’s the ultimate competitor.

Manchester was able to score one more time, a short run by Garrett Sites with just under a minute left gave the game its final score. It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Squire faithful, but the team didn’t stop playing until the final whistle.

“When you care about your teammates that deeply, you just keep fighting your tail off,” Brandwie said. “To see our kids continue to fight like that in the second half, I think it says a lot about who they are as people, and who they are as teammates. It’s a daily process to figure out how we can be a little bit better each day.”

The Squires will try to snap their three game skid on the road against Southwood Friday.