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Manchester controls the game; Simsbury deploys single wing – The Collinsville Press
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Manchester controls the game; Simsbury deploys single wing

Simsbury went to the single wing formation in its Friday night game against Manchester. A tailback, fullback and quarterback lineup in the backfield and get the direct snap from center. A wingback lines up tight. Manchester scored nine points in the final 3:13 to prevail 22-14.

MANCHESTER, Sept. 30 – In week one, Simsbury lost its starting quarterback Stephen Steijn to a knee injury. In week two, they lost the backup quarterback Brendan Conway to a shoulder injury. A pair of sophomores were ineffective running the triple option veer in the remainder of a 28-point loss to Conard.

This week, Simsbury didn’t use a quarterback – sort of.

The Trojans ran the little-used single wing offense, a style of football that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. Housatonic/Wamogo, a small Pequot Conference school in Falls Village, is the only other team in the state to employ this offense.

Simsbury was able to build a seven-point halftime lead but in the second half, Manchester controlled the game with its own running game and didn’t allow a first down as the Indians scored nine points in the final 3:13 to earn a 22-16 CCC Division I victory Friday night at Manchester High.
Simsbury coach Jeff Osborne hoped to use the single wing to eat up time on the clock and control the contest while getting the ball into the hands of some of its most dynamic playmakers.

Blair Zentek (8) shakes off Manchester’s Tyrone Davis to complete a two-point conversion pass.

Created by Glenn “Pop” Warner, the single wing formation has three players lined up on one side in the backfield. The center directly snaps the ball to a tailback, fullback or quarterback, who is frequently called upon to block. A wing back lines up near the end of the line. There are no wide receivers or tight ends.

Simsbury (1-2) drove right down the field on its first possession, marching 65 yards on nine plays. Former wide receiver Blair Zentek ran for 61 yards on five carries on the drive including a 34-yard touchdown run with 8:15 gone in the game. On the two-point conversion play, he shrugged off an attempted tackle and fired a successful conversion pass to Zack Wilson for an 8-0 lead.

However, Manchester adjusted its defense and gave up just one more first down in the game to Simsbury, none in the second half.

“We were able to get our guys to line up the right way and got them to settle down,” Manchester coach Mario Pizzoferrato said. “That was the biggest thing. Once they were lined up, they were able to get in there and make plays.”

Simsbury has only been practicing the single wing for four days. “It was really the first time we have used it live and we have a bunch more things to add to it,” Osborne said. “It fits our personnel because we have a decent (offensive) line.”

Manchester cut the lead to one on a 10-yard run by quarterback Marquis Little with 7:21 left in the second quarter and a successful extra point.

On the Indians’ next possession, Simsbury forced Manchester to punt from its own 31-yard line. The center snapped the ball high over the punter’s head and Simsbury took over on the four-yard line. Two plays later, Zentek scored from the five for a 14-7 lead with 6:27 left in the second quarter.

Manchester was playing inspired ball after one of their top rushers Elijah Udoh got hurt. And they were able to move the ball. But the Trojan defense played tough. Manchester had fourth down and 1 on the Simsbury 19 with about two minutes left in the second quarter but a fourth down pass was incomplete.

On Manchester’s opening drive of the second half, the Indians ran Roy Richards (36 carries, 154 yards) on eight straight plays to the Simsbury 16. But with fourth down and five yards to go, Cormack Mulshine made a big hit on pass completion that went for no yards and Simsbury took over.

Unfortunately, Simsbury coughed up the ball two plays later and Manchester went 43 yards in eight plays to pull within a point, 14-13. A two-point conversion run failed.
With 9:44 left in the game, Simsbury was faced with a fourth down and one at their own 49-yard line. They decided to punt but it went only seven yards.

Manchester ate up nearly five minutes as they drove 48 yards to the Simsbury 12-yard line. On third-and-2 from the 28, Roberts earned three hard-fought yards for the first down to keep the drive alive. With 3:13 remaining. Courtney DeBerry gave the Indians a two-point lead with a 30-yard field goal, 16-14.

Simsbury got the ball and stalled. On third down and nine, the snap from center went right through Zentek’s hands for a 22-yard loss. Simsbury turned the ball over on downs and Manchester added a late touchdown.

“They had to learn something in four days,” Osborne said. “They execute what we asked them to execute. It was a small package but they were executing it. We’ll keep on moving from here.”

NOTES: Unlike other games in greater Hartford that were suspended by lightning and rain, the weather was superb at Manchester High. The game began at 6 p.m. and the conditions were comfortable and cool. The grass field was in excellent shape, lush and full. … With the win, Manchester beat Simsbury in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the two schools began playing against each other in football in 1975. Simsbury leads the all-time series, 13-4-1.

Manchester 22, Simsbury 14
At Manchester
Simsbury (1-2)      8  6  0  0  — 14
Manchester (2-1)  0  7  6  9  — 22
First quarter
S: Blair Zentek 34 run (Zentek pass to Zack Wilson), 8:15
Second quarter
M: Marquis Little 20 run (Courtney DeBerry kick), 7:21
S: Zentek 5 run (run fails), 6:27
Third quarter
M: Roy Richards 13 run (run fails), 1:37
Fourth quarter
M: DeBerry 30 FG, 3:13
M: Little 11 run (kick fails), 0:56
Individual statistics
RUSHING: Simsbury – Blair Zentek 14-70, Christian Martinez 8-22, Cormack Mulshine 5-36, Andrew Girard 1-0, Nick Albergo 1-0, unknown (17) 1-2; Manchester – Marquis Little 5-57, Roy Richards 36-154, Tyrone Davis 4-33, Carlos Deleon 3-27, Damian Hernandez 1-10
PASSING: Manchester – Little 6-9-0, 71; Simsbury – Zentek 0-4-1
RECEIVING: Manchester – Deleon 3-28, Issac Andrew 1-23, Ashton Grant 2-20

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.


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