Crimsons seek to end historic streak against St. X

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Jailen Carter (11, #11) makes a leaping catch to score Manual’s first touchdown of the game. Photo by Kate Hatter

Jack Grossman

Tonight, Manual will not just be facing St. X, but they will also be battling history. The Crimsons go into the game having lost an astounding 26 consecutive games to the Tigers, as Manual has not knocked off the school from Poplar Level Rd. since 1993; however, Manual Head Coach Oliver Lucas believes that his Crimsons can end the historic losing streak.

“This team hasn’t lost to them [St. X] 26 times, this particular team has lost to them three times,” Lucas said. “This group is really a cohesive group; I think that they understand history, and I believe that we have a different attitude and swagger about believing that we can [win].”

Lucas also thinks that this year’s Crimsons are better mentally prepared to face the Tigers than in past years.

Bryce Cosby (11, #7) intercepts the ball for a 55 yard return for a touchdown. Photo by Kate Hatter
Bryce Cosby (11, #7) intercepts  and returns the ball 55 yards return for a touchdown against Fern Creek. Photo by Kate Hatter

“Other teams have come in wanting to win, but they don’t necessarily believe because as soon as they get shaken, they didn’t believe totally,” Lucas said. “But this team is not bothered by the ups and downs and the flow of the game.”

So far this season, Manual has been able to rise to the occasion and close out games that go down to the wire. This was made especially apparent when the Crimsons held off Ballard in the final seconds of the game to preserve a 24-19 victory.

“I think that the Ballard game showed our kids are not bothered when it comes down to the last play of the game,” Lucas said. “We don’t panic.”

In recent years, the Crimsons have struggled to finish games, especially against St. X. In 2013, Manual blew a late lead as the Tigers got a last second touchdown and stole the game, winning 24-23. In the 2014 playoffs, Manual held a 7-6 lead early in the third quarter when Antonio Hassell (12, #19) intercepted a pass, only to fumble and have St. X’s Blake Roshkowski (11, #10) recover the fumble and return it for a 56 yard touchdown. The Tigers would hold on to win 12-7.

Running back Troy Henderson (10, #29) rushes for a first down against Bowling Green. Photo by Kate Hatter
Running back Troy Henderson (10, #29) rushes for a first down against Bowling Green. Henderson is Manual’s leading rusher on the season. Photo by Kate Hatter

“Our cornerback Antonio [Hassell] made a great play on the ball, he’s a great athlete and when he was returning it, St. X made a great play to strip the ball and get the ball,” receiver Eric Niemann (12, #84) said after the 2014 playoff loss. “If that play didn’t happen, we would have had that game sealed.”

The Crimsons will need to finish strong to have a chance to finally beat the Tigers. Lucas hopes that the Manual student body can play a role in pulling out a victory.

We’re able to rally just because of the student body,” Lucas said. “It’s a home game, and our student body will help propel us over that edge if [the game] is close. Our kids really believe that we’re going to win.”

However, it will take a lot more than rowdy Crimson Crazies to upset the Tigers. Quarterback Tim Comstock (12, #3) will have to show up and perform well for Manual to win. Last year, Comstock struggled mightily against St. X. In the two meetings against the Tigers, Comstock threw five interceptions and lost a fumble, but did throw a pair of touchdown passes.

I think that [last season] we had put too much pressure on Tim’s shoulders, so we as coaches had to go back and look at that,” Lucas said. “I don’t think that we had the offense meet his style of play and to meet what he can do to be successful. So we as a coaching staff sat back and changed some things to format the offense around what he does well. The outcome of that is that he has played well.”

This season, Comstock has still been a tad inconsistent; however, he has put up slightly better numbers than in his junior campaign. According to Maxpreps, Comstock has completed 52 of 106 passes, a 49.1 completion percentage, for 663 yards and seven touchdowns.

Quarterback Tim Comstock (12, #3) runs for a gain of four at the beginning of the first quarter. Photo by Kate Hatter
Quarterback Tim Comstock (12, #3) runs for a gain of four against Central. Photo by Kate Hatter

Comstock’s biggest improvement has been in the run game, as the Crimson offense has incorporated more read options and designed quarterback runs for the mobile Comstock.

“Running the option keeps us at a fast pace and it keeps the defense guessing, because they don’t know who to key on, me or the quarterback [Comstock],” running back Reece West (12, #1) said.

When you have a quarterback that can run, that balances everything out for us,” Lucas said. “It helps us because Tim has always wanted to run; however, we didn’t always have the depth at the position that we need to run him. Now we feel like we have good strong backups at the quarterback position.”

The Crimsons will also have to slow down Tiger quarterback Desmond Ridder (11, #9). Ridder, like Comstock, is a dual threat quarterback that can beat the defense with his arm and his legs.

“The one thing you don’t account for in the run game is the quarterback,” Lucas said. “[Ridder] is an excellent throwing quarterback, and that means that if people are open he can hit them, but if he has to read the defense and go through a progression, that’s not his strength. It’s whenever there is a threat is when he’ll go out and run the ball, and that’s the thing that hurts the defense more.”

If Manual beats St. X, the Crimson football program would take another major step forward in establishing themselves as legitimate threats to contend for the Kentucky 6-A title.

“I’ve been trying to build a mindset of a championship atmosphere,” Lucas said. “You’re not just wanting to beat Male, but you have to want to win it all. These kids understand our challenges and they are focused to overcome them.”

The Crimsons and the Tigers will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. at Manual Stadium. Pregame senior night festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. Stay tuned to RedEye and follow @theCSPNsports and @Jack_E_Grossman for coverage of the game.