Chips come up short against Panthers

STANDISH — The Manistee football team was unable to hold onto an early 13-point lead and missed a late 2-point conversion try in a 27-25 loss to Standish Sterling on Friday.

“Physically, I think they kind of pounded on us in the second half,” Manistee coach Gus Kapolka said of the Panthers. “I don’t like to say that, but that’s kind of the way that I saw it. They were able to pound the ball down the field on us and our defense just couldn’t get stops when we needed them.”

It was the second straight loss for the Chippewas (4-3), who now have to win their final two games of the regular season (against Holton, at Benzie Central) to qualify for the playoffs.

Manistee scored on its opening drive as fullback Dillon Rankin ran the ball in from a yard out to make it 6-0. Rankin finished with 17 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown.

The Chippewas took a 13-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter as quarterback Mason Swidorski and Tyler Maiville hooked up for a 64-yard touchdown. Maiville also had nine rushes for 103 yards and a score on the ground while Swidorski finished 4-for-10 passing for 68 yards and an interception.

The Panthers pulled within six points in the second quarter, then scored on their first drive of the second half to knot the game at 13.

“Field position killed us again tonight,” Kapolka said. “They were working on a short field pretty much the entire game and it’s a very difficult position to put your defense in where they have to be perfect every down because they’re starting every series in four-down territory.”

Manistee responded with a 65-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Swidorski, but that was followed by the second missed extra point for the Chippewas.

“Those two conversions are obviously very big,” Kapolka said. “It’s something we have to improve on.”

Standish Sterling scored on its next two drives for a 27-19 lead before the Manistee defense forced a late turnover on downs to give the offense one last shot with a little more than two minutes left to play.

Lane Gancarz, who finished with five rushes for 55 yards, helped spark a Chippewa drive that finished with a 28-yard touchdown run by Maiville, but the 2-point conversion attempt — a pass from Swidorski to Williams — was broken up in the endzone

“They made a pretty decent play on it,” Kapolka said. “There was a lot of contact, but it was one of those plays where it’s a 50-50 ball.”

Gancarz led the Chippewas with 12 tackles and Jesse Kelley had nine while Evan Slawinski had an interception.



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