DEFIANCE, OHIO -- A 22-yard field goal in the closing seconds cost the Defiance College football team their second straight victory, as they fell to the Manchester University Spartans, 23-21, in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play on Homecoming at Justin F. Corressel Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
On just the third play of the game, the Yellow Jacket defense started on the right foot, as Beau Barkley (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Churubusco) scooped up a fumble that was forced by Markell Moncrief (Detroit, Mich./Southfield Lathrup) to give DC the ball. After a four-and-out from DC, Manchester returned the favor and punted the ball back to the Yellow Jackets midway through the opening quarter. Defiance went on to drive the ball 78 yards on 12 plays, capped by a six-yard strike from freshman Logan Mico (Grosse Pointe, Mich./Grosse Pointe South) to tight end Tyler Gillig (Tiffin/Columbian) to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-0 advantage through the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Mico found freshman Carl Stokes (Merrillville, Ind./East Chicago Central) for a 36-yard touchdown and Defiance advanced their lead to 14-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Manchester found the scoreboard with a 90-yard return for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-7 in the first minute of the second quarter. Late in the quarter, the Spartans were able to score again on a seven-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14, where the score would remain while entering the halftime break.
On the first play of Defiance's second drive of the third quarter, Mico found Stokes for a 38-yard scoring toss to put Defiance in front, 21-14, at the 11:11 mark of the third stanza. The score would remain the same, as the Yellow Jacket defense hung tough for the majority of the second half.
The Spartans got the ball at their own 33 yard line with 4:40 to play in regulation, and methodically drove the ball 67 yards in 13 plays, finishing the drive with a four-yard pass to make it a 21-20 game. Kody Graham missed the extra point for the Spartans, sailing the kick to the left, keeping Defiance clinging to a 21-20 lead with 1:08 to play. Manchester went on to recover the onside kick to get the ball back at their own 47 yard line, and they quickly drove the ball 48 yards in just 53 seconds, ending the drive with a 22-yard field goal for Graham to give them a 23-21 lead.
Defiance had one last chance from their own 25 with 24 ticks on the clock. After a Spartan penalty, Mico found Stokes for 15-yards with a roughing the passer penalty put DC in Manchester territory. A pass from Mico to Stokes fell through his hands, giving DC one final chance with eight seconds left. Mico found Stokes for an 18-yard gain, but time expired to finish off a heartbreaking 23-21 defeat for DC.
The Spartans outgained DC, 367-312, overall as they had 20 more offensive plays than the Yellow Jackets. Manchester did much of their damage on the ground, gaining 193 yards, compared to just 71 markers on the ground for DC. Defiance had a decisive 241-174 edge in the passing game, however.
Mico led the Yellow Jacket attack, completing 19-of-29 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was Stokes, who caught six passes for 127 yards and a pair of scores, while Gillig also caught six balls for 52 yards and a score. Corey Bennett (Tampa, Fla.) led the Defiance rushing attack with 80 yards on 17 carries.
Defensively, Defiance was led by senior Jalin Nealy (Pontiac, Mich./West Bloomfield), who finished with 12 tackles, 3.5 of them for loss, and a pair of sacks. Barkley and Greg Ward, Jr. (Ypsilanti, Mich.) finished the game with 10 tackles apiece in the loss, while Jacob Bickel (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Concordia Lutheran) finished with nine.
Defiance will hit the road on Saturday, Oct. 14 as they head to Anderson, Ind. to take on the Anderson University Ravens. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.