DEFIANCE, Ohio – A potential game-winning drive ended with a Manchester interception, as the Yellow Jackets saw a 19-7 halftime lead evaporate en route to suffering a 20-19 loss to the visiting Spartans on Homecoming.
Defiance began its final drive of the game with 32 seconds remaining on the clock and facing the one-point deficit. Austin Karcher moved the chains with a pair of completions to Joe Knight for a total of 16 yards to push the ball to the Manchester 43-yard line.
Karcher then fired the ball down to the Spartan 24-yard marker at an open Rick Powell but the DC receiver slipped on the soggy surface, allowing MC's Brecken Kennedy to seal the 20-19 Manchester victory with the team's third interception of the half.
Turnovers played a major role in the game, with the first of eight combined miscues leading to an early lead for the Yellow Jackets. Kyle Longsdorf scooped up a Spartan fumble on the one-yard line, after Manchester fumbled the first play from scrimmage. Troy Bell would run the ensuing snap into the end zone to give DC the 7-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game.
After a 60-yard sprint from Brandon Wells highlighted a two-play, 93-yard, scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7, another takeaway by Longsdorf led to the second score of the day for the Jackets. The junior playmaker picked off a Justin Minnich offering near midfield and ran it back 40 yards to the Manchester eight-yard line.
Defiance would punch it in three plays later, as Karcher connected with Nick Wiedenhoft from four yards out to take a 13-7 lead with eight minutes left in the opening half.
The cushion swelled to 19-7 in the closing moments of the second quarter, when Dustin Supan pulled down another Defiance interception with 33 seconds on the clock and returned it 58 yards for the score. The Jackets missed their second point-after attempt of the game and had to settle for the 12-point halftime lead.
The tide would turn quickly in the second half, as Manchester dominated the time of possession to the tune of a 19:03 to 10:57 advantage and secured three Defiance interceptions to spark the comeback.
The first interception of the half was returned 30 yards to the end zone by Ricky McKee to trim the DC edge to 19-14 with 13:31 left in the third quarter.
It remained a five-point edge for the Purple and Gold until the Spartans took the lead with just over 11 minutes remaining in the contest. A five-yard scamper from Wells capped the 51-yard scoring drive and put Manchester in front by the 20-19 score.
A failed two-point conversion from Manchester opened the door for Defiance to try to win the game on a field goal, but Karcher's third interception of the half ended the final chance of the afternoon for the Yellow Jackets.
The second-half woes for the Defiance offense were reflected in the game's final stats, as DC mustered only 179 total yards of offense and earned 13 penalties for a loss of 141 yards. The three interceptions combined with two missed extra points and a missed field goal opened the door for the MC comeback, while a three-of-16 showing on third downs led to 11 Yellow Jacket punts.
Manchester overcame five turnovers by rushing 175 times on 53 carries and by holding a 35:48 to 24:12 advantage in time of possession.
Longsdorf highlighted the day for Defiance with a game-high 12 tackles to go with one sack, 2.5 hits for lost yardage, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one interception that he returned for 40 yards.
Defiance (1-4, 0-2 HCAC) will look to snap a four-game skid when it travels to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on Rose-Hulman (3-3, 1-2 HCAC) at 1:30 pm on October 17.