The former United High standout had 12 carries for Slippery Rock.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- After his team's season-opening loss to Bloomsburg last week, Slippery Rock football coach George Mihalik took notice of a glaring statistic.
His top running back, junior Josh Kniess, touched the ball 37 times.
"He's a kickoff returner and a punt returner," Mihalik said. "We can't give Josh 37 touches a game, so we have to get somebody else in there."
Enter freshman Corey Manfull, a well-known player in Mahoning Valley football circles.
Player of the year
As a senior at United High last year, Manfull became one of the state's best offensive players, totaling 2,100 all-purpose yards in nine games. He shared player of the year honors in Division IV.
"For a true freshman, he's opened some eyes," Mihalik said. "Corey needs to play, and that can give Josh a breather now and then.
"Corey has some great skills, and you saw it tonight."
Taking advantage of his first action in the backfield, Manfull had 12 carries for 53 yards. He also scored his first touchdown on an 18-yard run through the heart of Youngstown State's defense in the fourth quarter.
"I just got the ball, looked up and there was no one around. It was perfect," Manfull said. "It was so amazing, I don't even know how to explain it."
Manfull's touchdown rallied Slippery Rock to within 21-13 with 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the game, but Youngstown State secured the season-opening victory with two late touchdowns.
"We were jacked at halftime. Everybody was pumped up," said Manfull, whose team held a 6-0 lead. "We tried to hold them off, but it just slipped away."
Manfull said he was drawn to Slippery Rock because of its facilities and athletic programs.
"It was a no-brainer," he said of his choice to attend school there.
Adding to his first year of college was the pleasant surprise of being thrown into the team's mix so early.
"It's so much faster," Manfull said of the college game. "There's a hole [in the line], and it closes before you know it. You either make a good read or you don't."
Manfull played sparingly in The Rock's season opener against Bloomsburg last week. Then came Thursday night and his return to the Valley, an experience he called "unbelievable."
"Before the game, [Coach] told me I was looking to get in tonight," Manfull said. "Things just started rolling, and they kept calling on me. It was awesome."