WELLSTON — Unfortunately for the Wellston High School football team, Saturday night was another chapter in what’s become an all-too familiar story.
That being one of plenty of positive flashes, but way too many points, yards and big plays being allowed.
As a result, the Golden Rockets remain winless at 0-4 following Saturday night’s 49-12 loss to Akron Manchester at C.H. Jones Field in Wellston.
Akron Manchester, who filled an open date on Wellston’s schedule for this season only, improves to 3-1.
And, just like West Jefferson a week ago, the Panthers put plenty of points on the board, piled up a plethora of offensive yards and posted some big plays and big numbers against the Wellston defense.
A Golden Rocket defense that has now allowed — twice — 49 offensive points and 55 offensive points. That’s a grand total of 208 offensive points.
In all, the Blue and Gold have been outscored by a staggering 221-46.
On Saturday, Manchester amassed 436 yards of total offense, 307 rushing yards, 74 plays from scrimmage, 28 first downs and seven total touchdowns.
Those are similar figures of which first-year Wellston head coach Jason Mantell has discussed before.
“Defense is an attitude,” he said. “You can do drills and you can put in schemes…everything is designed to work. But in order for it to work, you have to execute it and we have not executed it to our full potential.”
That was again the case in the first half against Akron. The Rockets gave up 13 points in the first quarter and 22 in the second quarter to trail at halftime, 35-6.
The second half was a significant improvement, as Wellston was only outscored 14-6 in the final two periods. The Rockets even forced the Panthers’ only punt and turnover of the game.
“We went into halftime and obviously had to make multiple adjustments. This seems to be the first week that the adjustments have actually sunk in with the kids,” said Mantell. “We’re not doing mass change. We’re running things and making the best adjustments we can within our system. In the second half, we finally put two quarters of respectable defense together — and we probably hadn’t put together two consecutive series until tonight. Our kids finally developed a little bit of that attitude in the second half.”
By then, though, they were already in a 42-6 hole with 4:06 gone by in the third quarter. The Panthers answered Wellston’s first touchdown with five unanswered touchdowns and 35 total points.
Running backs Zac Kreakbaum and Craig Dougherty had a hat trick of touchdowns apiece, as Kreakbaum went over the century mark in rushing. The senior, who rushed for over 1,600 yards last season, carried 25 times for 126 yards on Saturday.
The Panthers ran the ball 54 times, as Dougherty added 43 yards on 10 totes. Fullbacks Aaron Hunter (nine carries) and Brit Hunter (five carries) had 56 and 46 yards respectively.
Meanwhile, Manchester, not known as a throwing team, actually threw the ball 20 times and completed half of those aerials for 129 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Steve King completed 8-of-18 for 117 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Alex Kreakbaum with five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first half.
The second of five extra point kicks on the night by Tim Pfeiffer made it 28-6 at that point. Less than two minutes later, Zac Kreakbaum completed his hat trick by turning Wellston’s only lost fumble into a 6-yard touchdown run.
For the second straight series, Manchester needed just four plays to score after beginning their possession in Golden Rocket territory.
The first of those came after a nine-yard punt, while a fumbled snap from center resulted in the Panthers recovering the ball at the Wellston 25-yard line.
In the second half, Dougherty scored a pair of touchdowns, including the final with only a minute-and-a-half to go.
With most of the Manchester reserves in the game, the Panthers put together their longest drive of the night in terms of plays — a 14-snap, 82-yard march.
The longest drive in terms of yards covered 90 in the second quarter, as Kreakbaum capped an 11-play series with a 2-yard plunge. That gave the visitors a 21-6 cushion with only 3:05 elapsed off the second-quarter clock.
Kreakbaum’s first trip to paydirt came only 3:49 into the contest. He returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Wellston 37, then finished the short field with a 3-yard run on a 3rd-and-goal situation.
Just as it was against West Jefferson, Wellston was quickly down 7-0.
But, in similar fashion against West Jeff last week, the Rockets only needed a few plays to answer.
With the aid of a 15-yard personal foul face mask penalty, and a 13-yard pass from Cody Wilkett to Ryan Wagener, the Rockets moved the ball to the Panther 25.
On 2nd-and-10, Matt Lockard came in motion from the wide receiver slot, and took the handoff 25 yards to the house for the Rockets’ first touchdown.
Lockard’s point-after kick was blocked, which left the Golden Rockets trailing by a point just 4:51 into the matchup.
Against the Roughriders last week, the Rockets responded to the visitors’ initial score with a 60-yard touchdown pass and subsequent two-point conversion.
That 8-7 margin has been Wellston’s only lead all season.
However, the Panthers, like the Roughriders, answered back thanks to excellent field position. For the game, five of Manchester’s seven scoring possessions began in Wellston territory.
On the second scoring series, Kreakbaum returned the Golden Rocket kickoff 44 yards to the Wellston 40.
Dougherty finished the final five yards on a reverse call, which came on 4th-and-goal. The PAT kick was blocked, but Manchester maintained a 13-6 lead with 4:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Those were the first of the 35 unanswered points, as Wellston was forced to punt on its next two possessions. Prior to the nine-yard kick on a three-and-out series, Lockard booted the ball from midfield to the Manchester 14.
An illegal block in the back penalty pushed the Panthers back to their own 10, but a couple of key third-and-short conversions kept the drive alive and led to the 19-6 Wellston deficit.
Craig Parsons ran in for the two-point conversion following Kreakbaum’s second score.
Speaking of a second score, Lockard raced 91 yards for his and the Rockets’ second touchdown of the night, which occurred with 8:22 remaining in the game. The two-point conversion pass failed, leaving the Rockets trailing by 30 (42-12).
Lockard, with the aid of his two touchdown runs, racked up 128 rushing yards on only 11 carries.
Unfortunately for Wellston, the next leading rusher — sophomore Ryan Darnell — only gained a yard on one rush. The rest of the team rushed six times for minus-5 yards.
Manchester limited the hosts to only 41 plays from scrimmage, 11 first downs and 178 yards of total offense.
The sophomore signal-caller Wilkett was 6-of-23 for 55 yards. Lockard (17 yards) and Jeff Matteson (15 yards) made two receptions while Darnell recorded one (10 yards).
Mantell discussed, once again, his underclassmen-laden team challenging strong, senior-dominated clubs. The Rockets’ first four opponents have a combined record of 13-3.
“Our schedule is what it is. I don’t think anyone, pound-for-pound and considering our size, has a tougher schedule than us,” he said. “And if you look at a lot of our starters, in normal years, these kids are JV players. Some of our kids that are starting varsity are probably a year away from fully being ready. When you continually put 15-and-16-year-old kids up against veteran players, it’s going to show and it has shown. But again, you can’t make excuses and facts are facts. That’s just the way that it is. You have to play the hand you’re dealt and we’re going to do that.”
The young Rockets will face another tough test on Friday when they travel to 3-1 Rock Hill.
* * *
Manchester 13 22 7 7 — 49
Wellston 6 0 0 6 — 12
AM — Zac Kreakbaum, 3-yard run (Tim Pfeiffer kick), 8:11, 1st (7-0)
W — Matt Lockard, 25-yard run (kick failed), 7:09, 1st (7-6)
AM — Craig Dougherty, 5-yard run (kick blocked), 4:15, 1st (13-6)
AM — Zac Kreakbaum, 2-yard run (Craig Parsons run), 8:55, 2nd (21-6)
AM — Alex Kreakbaum, 33-yard pass from Steve King (Tim Pfeiffer kick), 5:30, 2nd (28-6)
AM — Zac Kreakbaum, 6-yard run (Tim Pfeiffer kick), 3:47, 2nd (35-6)
AM — Craig Dougherty, 15-yard run (Tim Pfeiffer kick), 7:54, 3rd (42-6)
W — Matt Lockard, 91-yard run (pass failed), 8:22, 4th (42-12)
AM — Craig Dougherty, 1-yard run (Tim Pfeiffer kick), 1:27, 4th (49-12)
First Downs 28 11
Scrimmage Plays 74 41
Rushing (No.-Yds) 54-307 18-123
Passing (Cmp.-Att.-Int.) 10-20-0 6-23-2
Passing Yards 129 55
Total Yards 436 178
Fumbles (No.-Lost) 2-1 3-1
Penalties (No.-Yds) 9-102 6-53
Punts (No.-Ave.) 1-38 3-24.3
Akron Manchester: Zac Kreakbaum 25-126 3 TD, Craig Dougherty 10-43 3 TD, Aaron Hunter 9-56, Brit Hunter 5-46, Steve King 2-22, Brandon Mattioli 2-14, Team 1-0; Wellston: Matt Lockard 11-128 2 TD, Cody Wilkett 4-(-2), Ryan Darnell 1-1, Chris Howison 1-(-4), Team 1-0
Akron Manchester: Steve King 8-18-0-117 TD, Craig Parsons 2-2-0-12; Wellston: Cody Wilkett 6-23-2-55
Akron Manchester: Craig Dougherty 3-22, Alex Kreakbaum 2-41 TD, Tim Pfeiffer 1-29, Alex Lloyd 1-18, Aaron Hunter 1-15, Zac Kreakbaum 1-2, Jake Dies 1-2; Wellston: Matt Lockard 2-17, Jeff Matteson 2-15, Ryan Wagener 1-13, Ryan Darnell 1-10