Gateway Overcomes Early Deficit and Edges Manheim Central in Thriller
Brady Walker and Courtney Jackson were the offensive stars for the Gators as Manheim had no answer for them defensively, but it was the diminutive 5’2” 105 lb. freshman, Jayson Jenkins, who turned out to be the hero when he booted his first field goal of the year, a 23 yarder, with ten ticks left on the clock to give Gateway a hard-fought 31-28 victory over the Barons of Manheim Central Friday night at Mansion Park Stadium in Altoona. “How about that little guy,” exclaimed Don Holl, Gateway’s head coach.
The game did not start out very well for the Gators as they fell behind 14-0 in the first seven minutes when Manheim’s Jake Novak caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Evan Simon at the 7:04 mark and then Garret Fittery hauled in a 35-yard scoring pass from Simon two minutes later. Moments after that they lost their freshman sensation, Derrick Davis, to an injury. Davis was carted off the field and taken to the hospital after taking a hit when he caught a pass. But then a funny thing happened, the Gators got their moxey on and with Walker pitching the pigskin to Jackson they mounted their comeback.
Walker, who was 36 out of 54 passing for 467 yards and 3 touchdowns, got the Gators on the board with 2:41 left in the opening quarter when he hit Jackson for a three yard score. Jackson wound up grabbing 15 passes totaling 264 yards and three touchdowns for his night of work. Walker tied the game at 14 when he rambled in from a yard away with only nine seconds remaining in the half. The tying score capped off a twelve play, 72-yard drive in the last three minutes.
The Gators dominated the first half, outgaining Manheim 203 to 97 in yardage, 15 to 5 in first downs, and 16:15 to 7:45 in time of possession. The second half was much the same with Walker to Jackson being the prevalent theme. The dynamic duo hooked up eleven times in half two for 245 yards and two 60-yard TDs. “We had to throw more than planned, because Derrick went down,” stated Jackson.
After another Simon to Fittery touchdown toss, this time for 21 yards, half way through quarter three, the Gators’ signal caller and wideout went to work. During the next three possessions, Walker completed ten straight passes for 227 yards, with seven of those being to Jackson for 188 yards. Gateway tied the game on a 61-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with 1:12 left in the third stanza. The Gators took their first lead at 28-21 early in the last quarter on a 66-yard bomb off of a hitch and go where the Manheim back bit on the fake. “We set ‘em up,” stated a smiling Jackson.
As the team from Monroeville was driving to put the game away, Will Rivers intercepted a Walker pass and returned it 50 yards to the Gateway 33 with just under four minutes left in the game. Simon ran for 14 yards on the first play and then big Colin Erb rumbled 19 yards to tie the game at 28 with 3:39 still on the clock.
Gateway then traversed 74 yards, in eleven plays, to the Baron six yard line setting up Jenkins’ heroics. Along the way they were aided by a defensive holding call on a play where Rivers intercepted another Walker throw, and a pass interference penalty on a third down incompletion.
But, believe it or not, the game was not over. After Colby Wagner ran the kickoff out of bounds at the Baron 28 with eight ticks left, Simon hit Novak over the middle for sixteen yards. Novak lateraled the ball to Tyler Simon going the other way. Tyler then outraced all Gator defenders except Brendon Majocha who got enough of a hand on him to trip him up on the Gateway 23 as time expired.
Notes and Quotes: Word from Derrick Davis’ dad is that Derrick will be okay and the hospital visit was just a precaution. “When you have a horse, you ride it,” said Holl about his quarterback, “He’s really good and he’s really heady. He can extend plays and just makes plays.” Holl also talked about what Gateway’s first trip to Hershey means to the community, “It’s a wonderful school community and I couldn’t be happier for those salt of the earth folks as well as our kids.”
Gateway outgained Manheim 541 to 319 and had twice as many first downs (31 to 14). Manheim’s quarterback, Evan Simon, was 9 of 20 passing for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Barons’ Giovanni Lester led all rushers with 62 yards. This was Manheim’s first loss of the season. They finished with a 13-1 record. Gateway, meanwhile, upped their record to 14-1 and will meet defending state champ Archbishop Wood next Friday night at 7:00 in Hershey for the Class 5A state title. “It’s amazing to be going to Hershey and I’d like to thank everybody for all their support,” said Jackson with a twinkle in his eye.
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