By Greg Gielczyk

SCOTTVILLE — Manistee didn’t let an early deficit against Mason County Central slow it down in a 27-6 victory on the road at Spartan Community Field Thursday night.

Each team made some early threats, but it was the Spartans who struck first when senior quarterback Will Chye rolled to his left to avoid the Chippewas pressure and hit on a 12-yard scoring pass with 2:38 left in the first quarter.

Manistee, sticking to the ground with its veer offense, marched down to the Spartans 20-yard on its first possession after forcing a punt but turned the ball over on downs.

On their next possession the Chippewas drove down to the Spartans 9, converting on a big fourth-down play to keep it alive, before Central’s defense finally rose up to make the stop on fourth down.

“You expect that when you travel somewhere that whoever you play they are going to be pretty fired up, and they came out and played us pretty physical there from the onset,” Manistee head coach Troy Bytwork said.

“But we firmly believe that if we stick to what we do, and we lean on our guys up front with the size and strength we have in time slowly wear down opponents. And that’s what we sought to do.”

Manistee capitalized on a short field when it covered a Spartans punt on the Central 30, junior running back Nick Hornkohl punching the ball in from 3 yards out at the 3:09 mark of the second quarter. Caius Johns booted the extra point and the Chippewas led, 7-6 at the half.

The Chippewas dominated the second half, possessing the ball for 19 of the 24 minutes, with the defense forcing two Spartans fumbles.

Sophomore halfback Kaden Kott broke up the middle on a 1-yard run to cap a long, time-consuming march that extended Manistee’s lead to 13-6 with 4:42 left in the third.

A hard hit by the Manistee defense forced the Spartans to cough up the ball, and the Chippewas immediately capitalized on it with senior quarterback Jeff Huber breaking to the outside and bolting over the left side 3-yard run with 1:00 left. Johns’ kick made it 20-6 for the Chippewas heading into the fourth quarter.

Manistee pinned the Spartans deep in their own territory at the 5 on a punt, but Chye completed back-to-back passes to trigger a drive that took them down to the Manistee 26. It ended there on downs. Manistee scored its last touchdown with 1:26 to play.

Central coach Scott Briggs missed the game as he fights a case of COVID, but he listened on the radio.

“From what I could understand they wore us down,” Briggs said. “Their line is quite a bit larger than our line, and they also had more depth.

“They were rotating in quite a few different backs. So, all in all those couple of things did wear us down. I would say we also had a couple of mistakes that cost us in the second half.

“I think the key stat that sticks out to me is they had 75 offensive plays to our 34 offensive plays. Some of that has to do with those mistakes.”

But there is light at the end of the tunnel said Briggs.

“We are getting better. The kids are getting more varsity game experience,” Briggs said. “These first two games we played against two good teams, and I think our younger kids are getting that varsity experience that they need.

“The kids just have to continue to work at it and continue to work hard and good things will happen. We’re one step closer now.”

Manistee compiled 391 yards of total offense, almost all of it on the ground as two running backs gained over 100 yards rushing. Hornkohl had 118 yards on 21 carries while Kott rushed for 104 on 18 carries with 2 TDs. Max Miles added 59 yards and Isaiah Davis 51.

Davis led the defense with 9 tackles while Braydon Sorenson made 6 stops.

For the Spartans, Chye completed 7 passes for 73 yards.

Ethan Domin paced the defense for the Spartans with 15 tackles while Jayden Perrone had 14 stops. Kolden Myer followed with 12 and Peyton Merz had 7.

The 0-2 Spartans next play at North Muskegon next Friday, while the Chippewas (2-0) are at home against Muskegon Oakridge. Both are WMC contests.

Photos courtesy of LSJ photographer Greg Gielczyk