It’ll be a rare in-season rematch for two conference foes as Manchester heads back to Defiance Saturday to face the winless Yellow Jackets.
The two squads met earlier in the season on a Thursday night at Defiance High School, with the Spartans coming out on top, 52-21.
“Last time we played them, after we settled down we competed pretty well with them,” said Defiance coach Manny Matsakis. “I feel like we’ve improved. Defensively, we were out of position a bit through the out. I think we are a lot better defensively.”
In the last meeting, Manchester running back Donovan Henderson, Jr. ran for 139 yards and five TDs. He has 1,099 yards (137.4 per game) with 11 scores.
“He’s an all-conference back,” Matsakis said of Henderson. “Our guys are getting to the point where they need to run through the tackle. He looked like Superman last time. We were bouncing off him.”
Manchester comes in at 2-6 overall and 1-4 in the HCAC.
“They are up and down,” Matsakis said of the Spartans. “They beat Franklin at their place, then last week lost to Bluffton. You don’t know which team will show up.”
The Spartans have also changed their attack, going with more passing.
“They’ve been trying to throw the ball a little bit more, but they lost to Bluffton trying to do that,” said Matsakis. “If I’m them, I’m going back to what beat Franklin.”
Defiance has also gone with a different plan offensively. The Yellow Jackets inserted Cole Recker into the starting line-up last week in a 53-6 loss at Rose-Hulman. Recker completed 11 of 38 passes for 129 yards, but was also sacked eight times for 73 yards.
“We went with Cole Recker,” said Matsakis. “We struggled with pass protection. We made a decision to throw the ball. We gave up a lot of yardage in sacks. You live and learn from it.”
Recker did throw a touchdown pass in the game, snapping a steak of 12 scoreless quarters by the Yellow Jackets.
“You’re concerned during the game because you want to win the game,” Matsakis said of the offensive troubles. “The players I see out there are the players for the future. I think its a matter of developing. Just being in the system longer will help. The concerns are warranted. However, without question, we are in a position to build something. We are recruiting the right kind of players.”
Special teams have also been an issue for the Yellow Jackets.
“We had two snaps go over the head of the punter, resulting in a touchdown and safety for them – that’s troubling,” admitted Matsakis. “We have to sure that up.”
Matsakis has also seen an improvement from the defense, despite some of the final scores.
“It was a much better job by our defensive guys,” said Matsakis. “We have to do a better job of when we tackle, we run through people. That’ll come with practice. The one thing that stands out the most is the less mental errors.”
Kickoff Saturday at Coressel Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m.