MANISTEE — There are plenty of festivities surrounding a homecoming game, but on the field Manistee found very little to celebrate Saturday in a 42-7 loss to Gabriel Richard.
“We’re not doing a lot of things real well right now, obviously,” said coach Troy Bytwork of the Chippewas’ second straight loss, “and it’s a compilation of things. … It’s an overall failure to put it all together at this point.”
After a 2-0 start to the season, the young Chippewas (3-3) have dropped three of their last four. On Saturday, they struggled to move the chains with the ball and gave up too many big plays without it.
The Pioneers (5-1) got it done on the ground and through the air, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter before scoring a trio of second-quarter touchdowns that gave them plenty of breathing room the rest of the way.
“They were getting movement on their offense front, which was pretty noticeable, and that puts you in a bad spot to stop the run,” Bytwork said. “Most high school teams run the ball first and foremost, but their quarterback had some time to sit back there and sling a few today too.
“So, (we struggled on) both sides of the ball today.”
There wasn’t much offense to speak of in the first half for Manistee, as Gabriel Richard forced five punts and a fumble in the Chippewas’ six total drives.
Gabriel Richard got on the board at 5:12 in the first quarter as running back Michael Holdsclaw broke free for a 42-yard touchdown, his first of two scores in the half.
The Pioneers really got rolling in the second, as quarterback Joe Wisniewski threw for a pair of touchdowns — the first to receiver Quinn Hess for an 8-yard score at 10:34 and the second a 45-yard strike to Robbie Henderson at 7:45 — for a 21-0 advantage. With 48 seconds remaining before halftime, Holdsclaw scored again on a 10-yard rush for a 28-0 lead his team would take into the locker room.
The Chippewas escaped the shutout with just 3 second left in the game, as junior quarterback Keelan Eskridge capped an 11-play drive (Manistee’s longest of the game) with a rushing score on the goal line. Eskridge finished the game 1-for-5 passing as teammate Landen Powers led the offense with 68 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Defensively, sophomore Connor Beaudrie paced Manistee with 11 tackles (two for losses) and a fumble recovery, while Eskridge and Brady Mikula each had seven tackles.
“We’re struggling obviously to figure out who we are right now — what our identity is — and it’s tough coming off the year we had last year,” Bytwork said, referring to Manistee’s unprecedented 9-0 regular season in 2018. “It makes this tougher to swallow sometimes, because the kids might wonder why. But when you have this many young guys, you try to improve at each and every position, and that’s all you can do.”
“It’s not like you’re going to pack it in,” he said. “You stick together and fight.”
The Chippewas’ final three games of the regular season are all on the road, starting with Friday’s trip to Muskegon Catholic Central for a Lakes 8 Conference contest.