Redbirds soar over Eagles, 55-16

Tom Batters
Senior quarterback Conner Currier hit senior receiver Nick Mangieri for a 25-yard touchdown pass in a 55-16 loss to Metamora Friday night. Currier also scored on an 82-yard touchdown run.

Earlier in the week, Metamora football coach Pat Ryan looked at the Dunlap game film and thought, “We have to watch out for No. 25.”

That, of course, is Dunlap senior receiver Nick Mangieri, who stands 6’5” tall and weighs 235 pounds.

“He’s a very good football player,” Ryan said. “Their whole offense is good. We knew we had our work cut out for us.”

The Redbirds, however, were up for the challenge.

They held Mangieri to five catches for 61 yards and blew out the Eagles 55-16 Friday night at Malone Field in Metamora.

“It’s pretty hard to shut him out, “Ryan said of Mangieri, who will play at Indiana University next fall. “But, we did a nice job containing him.”

Ryan inserted an extra defensive back into pass coverage, and his defense put relentless pressure on Eagles’ quarterback Conner Currier all night (Currier went 9-for-13 for 83 yards).

The Redbirds’ offense also clicked.

Metamora scored on its very first play from scrimmage (a 71-yard run from junior Dekota Doerr), and needed just four plays to score in its next possession (a 24-yard run from junior quarterback Bryan Burk).

The Redbirds continued to pour it on, and they led 41-16 at halftime.

Dunlap’s first snap of the game went over Currier’s head, and he chased it down for a 23-yard loss. The Eagles were forced to punt from their own 8-yard line three plays later.

Dunlap (3-2 overall, 1-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference) reached the Metamora 10-yard line on its second possession, but the Eagles could not convert on fourth down and six, so Metamora took over on downs.

To start the second quarter, Metamora (4-1, 3-0) mounted another scoring drive capped by senior Charlie Nowotnik’s 5-yard touchdown run, which gave the Redbirds a 21-0 lead.

Dunlap senior Chris Eberlin returned the kickoff all the way to the Metamora 30-yard line, and Currier hit Mangieri for a 24-yard touchdown strike three plays later. Mangieri also caught the two-point conversion pass to make it 21-8 with 8:55 left in the first half.

Metamora struck back quickly, though.

On third down and seven, senior Austin McVey ran a “double handoff” play 63 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-8 with 7:276 left in the half.

Junior RB Byron Jordan earned a big first down on fourth down to keep the Eagles’ next drive alive, but Dunlap was forced to punt after Currier was sacked for a loss of yardage.

Senior quarterback Ross Hoover (Metamora alternated quarterbacks) hit Doerr for a 59-yard touchdown pass over the middle on the very first play of the next drive to make it 35-8.

“There was nobody in the middle of the field beyond the linebackers, so we had to take advantage of that,” Ryan said.

The Eagles weren’t ready to give up, though.

On their first play, Currier ran an option and kept the ball for an 82-yard touchdown run along the sideline.

“Mangieri blocked downhill and took out about three of our defensive backs,” Ryan said. “It was a nice play. I’ll give their quarterback credit. He played a tough game.”

Mangieri caught the two-point conversion pass to make it 35-16 with 2:33 left in the half.

Metamora put together a 10-play drive and scored with :19 left in the half to make it 41-16 (the extra point failed).

Earlier in the drive, the Redbirds were lined up to punt on fourth down, but a substitution penalty on Dunlap gave the Redbirds new life.

They converted the first down and later scored on another “double handoff” play, this time a 16-yard run from Doerr.

On its second play of the second half, Doerr caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from Hoover on what looked like the same play as the previous long touchdown pass, to make it 48-16.

Currier was sacked three times on the Eagles’ next drive and a costly Dunlap penalty negated a long reception from senior Max Finley.

Doerr capped the scoring with an 81-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter to make it 55-16.

Metamora only punted once for the entire game.

On that punt, Dunlap senior Derrick Smith returned it all the way to the Metamora 27-yard line.

Dunlap hosts Canton (1-4, 0-3) Friday night.