SOUTH WHITLEY – Despite a slow start out of the gate, the Manchester Squires found their composure in the second quarter of their game with the Whitko Wildcats and never looked back. Manchester rattled off 42 unanswered points to spoil Whitko’s homecoming game in a 42-7 win.

It’s the second straight win for the Squires, who are now 3-3 this season, 2-2 in Three Rivers Conference play. On the other side, it’s the second straight loss for Whitko, bringing the team down to a 1-6 record, 1-5 in conference.

The Wildcats had plenty of fans in the bleachers wearing red and blue to support their team on homecoming, and used the energy of the crowd to get off to a quick start. After turning over the Squires on downs on the first possession of the game, Whitko seized the opportunity. With a little over half of the first frame played, quarterback Slater Craig tiptoed his way down the sidelines for a 31-yard touchdown run.

On the next Manchester possession, the Whitko defense came up big again, getting a fourth down stop with the Squires in the red zone. The Wildcats proceeded to get nine yards on the next three plays, before deciding to go for it on their own 20-yard-line. The Squires would get the stop, and on the first play of the ensuing drive, score. A Brock Casper dart to receiver Seth Gaerte would lead the latter into the end zone, and tie the game.

“We talked about trying to take as shot if we were able to make the stop to try and take back a little bit of the momentum,” Manchester coach Alyx Brandewie said. “They had a lot of it early. But we get the stop and Brock makes a great decision and throw.”

“The seniors wanted to go for it. Told me we’re going to run it up the gut, I’ve been blocking this guy all night, but we were six inches short,” Whitko head coach Chip Coldiron said. “But it only made it 7-7, we still had three quarters left to play.

Those three quarters were dominated by the Squires, who scored touchdowns five drives minus the one that ended at the halftime whistle, Also getting in on the scoring was nose tackle Trevor Dill, who picked up a fumble and took it 37 yards to the house.

Leading the balanced Manchester attack were Casper, Gaerte and running back Braxton Ream. Casper was 12-19 for 205 yards and two TD passes, both to Gaerte, who caught five balls for 118 yards. Ream was a workhorse all night, carrying the ball 26 times for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was a total team effort tonight. Running the ball, throwing the ball, that includes our big guys up front, our skill guys making plays and then our defense comes up with a score,” Brandiewie said. “We didn’t start the way we wanted to, but we finished the right way.

A bright spot for the Whitko offense came in the form of running back Ethan Gilbert, who returned after missing two weeks due to COVID. Gilbert finished his day with 54 yards on 16 carries.

Manchester will try to extend its win streak to three against Maconaquah Friday, while Whitko takes on Southwood.