SULLIVAN TWP. — It’s been 10 months since Manchester’s football team saw its season come to an end at the hands of Black River.
Friday night, the Panthers avenged that loss — and the regular-season setback they had to the Pirates — with a 41-14 decision at Art Stevenson Field.
“We got a little bit of a payback, I guess,” Manchester veteran coach Jim France said. “We’ve been getting better every week and we took it to the next level tonight.”
A week after a heart-breaking 38-35 loss to Woodridge, the Panthers (1-2) came out on a mission and set a feverish tone before the floodgates broke in the third quarter.
It all started with senior quarterback Nick Peyakov, who made passing look easy.
The 6-foot-3 signal caller finished 20-for-31 for 324 yards and connected with wideouts Chad Robertson, Jamar Dukes and Zach Ford for a combined five touchdowns.
“He’s coming into his own,” France said of his QB. “He’s a quality kid that’s smart and is a leader. He’s also strong and can run it, which makes it a little bit tougher on the defense. He’s just an all-around good player.”
Peyakov’s ability to spread the field made the offense virtually impossible for the Pirates (0-3) to stop.
When the lanky Peyakov wasn’t hitting Robertson (9 catches, 190 yards, 3 TDs) on the fade or Dukes (6, 70, 1) across the middle, running backs Clayton Miller and Austin Klein chewed up bits of yardage — 120 yards on the ground, to be exact — that had Black River searching for answers.
“We’re just not very good right now,” Pirates coach Al Young said. “We’ve got to find 11 guys that are ready to play defense. Right now, I think our offense is getting close, but defensively we’re still a ways away. Right now we’re not there.”
Peyakov hit Robertson early and often. The first of the receiver’s three TDs came on a 19-yard fade that was wide open on the Panthers’ first possession. Dukes caught his only touchdown pass early in the second to give Manchester a 14-0 edge at halftime.
That was just a little taste, as the Panthers scored on their first three possessions of the third quarter — 5-yard strikes to Ford and Robertson and an 8-yard run by Klein — to stretch the advantage to 34-0.
“We’re not used to that,” France said with a grin. “We’re usually an off-tackle team, but we’re trying to take advantage of (Peyakov). Jamar Dukes made some great catches tonight and is a good target at 6-4.”
Five different receivers caught passes from Peyakov, as the third-year starter threw for 167 of his 324 yards in the second half, which included a stretch in the third where he went 9-for-11 for 144 yards.
“We’re not playing good defense, and it’s not very tough playing against us throwing the football right now,” Young said. “That’s my fault, and we as a coaching staff have to get that straightened out so the guys start doing what we want them to do.”
The Pirates showed signs of life midway through the second half as Austin Phillips (15 carries, 115 yards) broke off a 57-yard touchdown run with 41 seconds left in the third. Quarterback Dakota Kuntz also scored on the ground with an 11-yard scamper in the fourth.
Along with 85 yards rushing on 17 carries by junior Andrew Vaughn, Black River’s offense looked to be turning a corner on a night when the defense took another step back.
“I think it’s everything,” Young said. “I don’t think we’re getting much pressure inside, and I don’t think we’re getting very good play out of our linebackers. Obviously our secondary is not covering anybody.
“Defense is about showing up with an attitude and making plays, and right now we’re not doing any of that.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
Manchester 41, Black River 14
MANCHESTER 6 8 20 7 — 41
BLACK RIVER 0 0 6 8 — 14
M — Chad Robertson 19 pass from Nick Peyakov (kick failed), 8:44.
M — Jamar Dukes 14 pass from Peyakov (Robertson pass from Peyakov), 9:57.
M — Zach Ford 5 pass from Peyakov (Peyakov kick), 9:07.
M — Austin Klein 8 run (Peyakov kick), 4:51.
M — Robertson 5 pass from Peyakov (kick failed), 1:56.
BR — Austin Phillips 57 run (Alex Bacisin kick), 0:41.
BR — Dakota Kuntz 11 run (Bacisin kick), 6:50.
M — Robertson 35 pass from Peyakov (Peyakov kick), 4:10.