By Rob Potter
LIVINGSTON MANOR September 10, 2002 Coming into the high school football season, opposing coaches knew that stopping Livingston Manor running back George Thomas would be a key factor in defeating the Wildcats.
As a sophomore in 2001, Thomas rushed for over 1,300 yards.
So on the second play from scrimmage of Saturdays Class D non-league game between Manor and the visiting Eldred, the Yellowjacket defense reacted accordingly when Thomas took a handoff and ran to the right. But Thomas handed the ball to fellow running back Travis Morton, who ran back to the left side of the field, eluded a couple of would-be tacklers and raced down the sideline for 74 yards and a Manor touchdown.
Just 44 seconds into the game, Manor had a 6-0 lead.
While both teams made some typical first game mistakes and miscues in the first half, Eldred (0-1) responded with a touchdown of its own in the second quarter. Devin Weyant capped a quick Yellowjacket drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
That knotted the score at 6-6 with 7:28 remaining until halftime.
Thomas rushed for a four-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in the second quarter and scored the two point conversion to give the Wildcats a 14-6 lead heading into the locker room.
The second half was all Manor (1-0), as the Wildcats posted a 32-6 victory.
Thomas, who rushed 12 times for 67 yards in the game, made what was perhaps the key play of the contest on defense.
On the third play of the second half, Eldred quarterback Brian Daboul was under heavy pressure from the Manor defensive line. The ball popped loose and Thomas, a linebacker, grabbed it and ran 38 yards into the endzone to give the Wildcats a 20-6 lead.
That was a big boost right there, Thomas said of the play. It was great work by the defensive linemen.
Manor Coach Scott Branning had to adjust his game plan when starting quarterback John Henry Schleiermacher was injured in the first quarter. Schleiermacher, a senior, was taken off the field with a foot injury with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
We just got totally disoriented out there, Branning said. He represents about a third of our offense. That made a big impact. We expected a tough game from Eldred, but losing John Henry made it a little tougher.
Senior Brian Will took a few snaps after Schleiermacher was injured and then sophomore quarterback Josh Mendez, who is the starting QB for the Manor junior varsity team, took over so Will could return to his fullback position.
Thomas added a 31-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, which extended the Manor lead to 26-6.
Hes a great back and as the game goes on, hell wear your defense down, Eldred Coach Frank Kean said. Thats what he did to us today.
Kean also noted that Thomas interception really hurt us.
Overall though, Kean wasnt too disappointed with his teams performance.
We played o.k. today, the veteran coach said. We have a lot to work on. We showed a lot of heart out there, but there are still things to improve.
Notes: While this contest was a non-league game, the second match-up between Manor and Eldred this season will count as a Section IX Class D game. That game is slated for Saturday, October 19 in Eldred. . . . After being taken to a local hospital for x-rays, Schleiermacher reportedly was diagnosed with a bruise on his left foot. . . . This Saturday, September 14, Manor plays host to Section IVs Unatego and Eldred welcomes Hancock, also a Section IV team. Both non-league contests are set to begin at 1:30 p.m.