Local Sports, Preston, Sports

Defense lifts Preston to 1st win, 20-14 over RCB

KINGWOOD — The Preston High Knights defeated Class AA side Robert C. Byrd on Friday evening led by sophomore quarterback Slaton Manko and some hard-nosed defensive play.

The Eagles (0-3) set the tone early on their opening drive, marching straight down the field for a touchdown when Latrell Jones scampered across the goal line from 10 yards out. Jones had 120 yards on the ground in the first half alone and after the opening drive, it seemed the Preston (1-3) defense may be in for another long night facing a speedy ground game.

But a good response by the offense tied the game at six each with just over five minutes to play in the opening frame when Manko connected with junior wideout Cody Smith for a 20-yard catch and run.

Manko, just a sophomore, was 9 for 11 with 110 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

“It was a great game and a dogfight tonight,” Preston coach Mark Deep said. “It was about how we responded tonight as a team. We left some plays out there tonight but I told the guys to keep playing hard and good things would happen.”

After tying the game, the Preston defense came back onto the field needing to find a way to slow the rushing attack of the Eagles, and it didn’t take long for them to do so. A stop on fourth down around midfield gave the Knights the ball back on offense with good field position and some momentum swinging in their favor.

It only took two minutes this time for the Preston offense to find the end zone, as this time tailback Ethan Likens punched the ball in from three yards out giving his team a 13-6 lead after a successful extra point by Cole Turner.

RCB opened the second quarter in possession and drove the majority of the field, looking as though they were poised to pound the ball for a touchdown themselves. However, as quarterback Junior Smith crossed the line of scrimmage on a sneak, the ball was punched free by a Preston defender and flew directly into the air. It was recovered in the end zone by the Knights for a touchback giving the offense possession on their own 20-yard line.

After a nearly five-minute, 55-yard drive that included multiple conversions on third down, the Knights were the team to fumble this time with RCB recovering and flipping the field, and momentum with it.

Facing a fourth and three on the Knights’ 16-yard line, the Eagles came up two yards short and gave possession right back to the hosts with 1:56 left to play until the break. On the very next play, a high snap went over the head of Manko and rolled into the end zone. He had no choice but to fall on the ball to prevent a touchdown by the RCB defense, awarding a safety to RCB and cutting the PHS lead to 13-8 going into the locker room.

The third quarter flew by with only three total offensive drives between the two teams. The Knights held strong on the Eagles opening drive of the second half, forcing a turnover-on-downs on a 4th and eight.

However, RCB forced the same out of the hosts after Manko came up short on a pass intended for a wide-open receiver in the end zone.

With 36 seconds left in the third, the Eagles took a deep shot to the end zone from near midfield, but the ball was tipped into the air and caught by a Preston defender swapping possession and momentum entering the fourth quarter.

The Knights were forced to punt after a bad snap on a third and two halted the drive and the visitors took advantage needing only one minute on game time to score and snatch the lead back at 14-13 with 9:08 remaining in the game.

Once again, Manko stepped up big time for his team with a 50-yard connection to Smith to the RCB 11-yard line. Manko eventually punched the ball in himself and the Knights took a 20-14 lead after an extra point.

“We ran that play about six times in the game and I missed it four times out of the six,” Manko said. “I just saw it early in the play and threw the ball up there to Cody. He made a great play for us.”

The Eagles refused to go away though and used the strength of Jones, who had over 200 yards on the ground in the game. A holding call negated a big run for a first down and on the ensuing play, Smith’s attempted pass was caught and fumbled after possession was established by the RCB receiver. Junior Cameron Newlin came up with the ball for the Knights.

After failing to convert on third and eighth, Preston punted once again but intercepted the ball on the second play of the Eagles’ drive to seal the game.

The Knights earned their first win of the season.

“We had a great week of practice, four good days, and now it translates to the game,” Deep said. “We just need to continue to stack the good days and let those feed into the game on Friday.”

Preston 20, Robert C. Byrd 14
RCB 8 0 0 6 – 14
Preston 13 0 0 7 – 20

RCB Jones 10 run (try failed)
PHS Smith 20 pass from Manko (kick miss)
PHS Likens 2 run (Turner kick)
RCB Safety
RCB Jones 9 run (try failed)
PHS Manko 1 run (Turner kick)

RUSHING: RCB – Jones 25-204 2TD, Hatfield 12-57, Smith 8-76; Preston – Likens 19-74 TD, Turner 1-5, Manko 5-13 TD, Land 6-22. PASSING: RCB – 7-16 69; Preston – Manko 14-19 194 TD. RECEIVING: RCB – Jones 2-18, Duarte 2-45, McAtee 1-2; Preston – Taylor 4-55, Smith 4-95 TD, Land 4-30, Likens 3-15.