By FRED CAY
Akron Beacon Journal
Matt Eldom refused to let nerves or the importance of the moment get the best of him.
Eldom, Manchester’s senior kicker, calmly split the uprights with a 22-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock as Manchester captured a dramatic 19-16 victory over Uruline in Saturday’s first-round Division V Region 19 playoff game at James R. France Stadium.
Manchester (9-2), the region’s top seed, used up the last 5:11 of the game with a 15-play, 78-yard march as the Panthers’ punishing ground game proved decisive. All but one play of the drive was on the ground until Eldom’s winning boot.
And he made it despite Ursuline’s best efforts to upset him, calling its last two timeouts with one second left and the Panthers already lined up for the final play.
“They were trying to make me nervous, trying to make me miss it,” Eldom said. “I knew I could make it. It’s an easy chip shot for me so I wasn’t too nervous.
“I knew my line would block, snap would be good, holder would do good, so I wasn’t worried.”
Eldom also made a 31-yard field goal late in the first quarter that gave Manchester a 3-2 lead.
“It’s a great win for us,” Manchester coach Jim France said. “They beat teams that are out of our league, so our kids — I’m so proud of them.
“And we beat them at their game,” France said. “We ran the ball right down their throats and that’s the way we like to play football.”
With senior Austin Klein, the Panthers’ usual top rusher, sidelined late in the first half with an apparent knee injury, Mason Hayes turned in a heroic effort.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior had 29 carries for 147 yards, including seven carries for 41 yards on the final drive as Manchester reached the Ursuline 5 to set up the winning kick.
France said the Panthers could have scored a touchdown “if we had another 30 seconds.”
“That’s OK, we’ll take the field goal,” he said.
Ursuline quarterback Chris Durkin raced 49 yards on a keeper to give Ursuline (4-6) a 9-3 lead that held up until halftime.
But Manchester tied it on Hayes’ 1-yard plunge on the first possession of the second half.
Eldom’s extra point appeared to give the Panthers the lead, but it was nullified by a chop block penalty and the subsequent 34-yard kick was no good.
Another long Panthers drive was capped by Hayes’ second touchdown from 12 yards out late in the third quarter and Eldom’s kick provided a 16-9 lead.
But Kimauni Johnson’s 55-yard burst brought the Irish back for a 16-16 tie with 5:17 left, setting the stage for the home team’s late dramatics.
Johnson gained 144 yards on nine carries.
Durkin completed six of 17 passes for 82 yards.
Ben Phillips caught three passes for 37 yards.