The Salida High School football team welcomed Manitou Springs for its home opener Friday. The two teams traded blows and the lead throughout the contest. In the end, however, Manitou recovered a late on-side kick to help it hold on and win the game, 30-27.
“Overall I’m super proud of the guys,” Salida head coach Matt Luttrell said. “They never backed down.”
The Spartans struck first, marching down the field and into the end zone on 18 plays during the opening drive. Salida overcame two holding penalties that negated big plays, but a roughing the kicker penalty on Manitou also helped keep the drive alive.
On fourth-and-6, senior quarterback Zayne Walker connected with senior Ben Fuller for a 17-yard pickup to Manitou’s 3-yard line. Two plays later sophomore Braden Collins scored a touchdown on a sweep. Junior Sebastian Niehoff’s kick put Salida up 7-0.
Sophomore Brewer Matthews, Walker and Collins made other plays of 10 yards or longer on the drive as well.
Manitou’s offense, however, only needed four plays to score its first two touchdowns and take the lead. The Mustangs scored on a 52-yard run and then a 10-yard run that was set up by a blocked punt.
“On defense we’ve still got to figure things out,” Luttrell said.
The Spartans battled back though to take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
After Manitou’s second score, Fuller made several defenders miss on a 21-yard carry. Walker then hit Collins in stride for a 70-yard touchdown.
“Offensively, our passing game is potent and hard to defend,” Luttrell said.
Salida trailed after a missed extra point, 14-13.
After forcing Manitou to punt, Salida struck again. Walker started the drive with a 15-yard run. Fuller then ran 9 yards on a third-and-8 and got another 15 yards tacked on since he was tackled with a horse collar, putting Salida in Manitou’s red zone.
On fourth-and-2, Fuller ran for 4 yards and then Walker rushed into the end zone from a yard out. Walker’s 2-point conversion run put Salida up 21-14.
Also in the first half, junior Raymond Clinton recovered a fumble for the Spartans. Salida then made a late goal-line stand after Manitou got a first down at Salida’s 5-yard line.
In the second half, Manitou scored on the opening drive to take a 22-21 lead.
The Spartans almost answered right back. With Walker temporarily sidelined with a cramp, Collins took the snap, made several defenders miss and rumbled 69 yards. Manitou’s Aidan Mininger, however, caught Collins at the 1-yard line. Mininger was also Manitou’s biggest weapon on offense in the game, and his touchdown-saving tackle was a big difference in the game.
After a no gain on first and goal, a false start backed Salida up to the 6-yard line. A Walker sack backed them up even further and eventually Salida turned the ball over on downs.
“It’s a game of inches and we lost that inch tonight,” Luttrell said.
Manitou made it a two-score game on their next drive, moving the ball 74 yards on 13 plays before Mininger scored his second touchdown from 8 yards out. Dylan Jardin, who scored Manitou’s other two touchdowns, then converted the 2-point conversion to put Manitou up 30-21 with 8:38 left in the game.
Salida answered with a 17-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with Walker tossing a 16-yard strike to Fuller in the end zone. Salida missed the extra point but only trailed by 3, 30-27, with 2:13 left.
Manitou, however, recovered the ensuing on-side kick and, after a first down, was able to take a knee to run out the clock.
Salida is now 0-2 while Manitou improved to 1-0 with the win.
“I tip my hat to them – they were ready,” Luttrell said.
Next, Salida will travel to Delta to take on the Panthers (1-0) Friday.
At halftime of Friday’s game, Spartan fan Jackie Berry kicked a 25-yard field goal to win $50 from the Salida cheerleaders.