NEW FRANKLIN, OH-The Columbiana Clippers faced a daunting task to open the 2019 high school football season, stopping the prolific Manchester Panthers ground game. The Clipper defense was up to the challenge. Ethan Wright, who has rushed for over 5,000 yards and 65 touchdowns over the past two seasons, was held under 100 yards and scoreless, but the perennial Division V power found a way to pull out a 21-14 victory over the visiting Clippers anyway. It was victory number 393 for the legendary head coach of Manchester, James France, in his 48th year at the helm.
Wright lined up as quarterback for much of the game and found fellow running back Hunter Foster for a 28-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive. The Clippers quickly responded behind Jakob Cross’s arm and legs as the senior signal-caller led them downfield before handing to Hunter Woodring for a 3-yard score to knot it up, 7-7. Coach Spaite’s offense took the lead early in the second quarter when Cross hit Chase Franken for a 64-yard touchdown pass. But late in the first half, crucial mistakes by the Clippers led to a game-tying touchdown pass by the Panthers, and the teams went to intermission tied, 14-14.
Both teams played outstanding defense leading to a scoreless third quarter. Then, midway through the fourth, Riley Soles took a Cross pass the other way for a game-deciding pick-six. Ethan Wright snagged another interception on Columbiana’s next possession to seal the win.
Cross ended the night with 250 combined passing and rushing yards. Franken had 5 receptions for 122 yards while Hunter Zentner grabbed six catches for 62 yards. Foster had over 100 combined rushing and receiving yards for Manchester.
Columbiana will host McDonald at Firestone Park next Friday, Sept. 6 at 7:00 PM. YSN will have coverage starting at 6:45.
*Story Contributed by Mark Franken