The atmosphere in Mollenkopf Stadium was electric for a Saturday night classic between the Warren G. Harding Raiders and Cleveland Glenville Tarblooders. While the fans knew they were in for a contest between two of the best teams in Ohio, all of the talk around the stadium surrounded the showdown between Michigan wide receiver commitment Mario Manningham (Warren Harding), and Ohio State defensive back commitment Jamario O'Neal (Glenville). At the end of the night, though, only one of those players would stand out in the minds of those who came out to see them play.
Glenville squibbed the opening kickoff to keep the ball out of Mario's hands and Harding started off at their own 30. After two short runs, quarterback Roger Matlock found Manningham on a 5-yard curl route in the middle of the field. The elusive future Wolverine then turned the short pass into a fantastic play! He started out by breaking a tackle attempt by O'Neal, followed that up by shaking several defenders to reach the sideline, and then left everyone in the dust for a 66 yard touchdown that put Harding on the board first.
Glenville answered with a 16-play, 80-yard drive led by quarterback Arvell Nelson. Tailback Tim Conner would eventually score on a 5-yard run. Conner was very impressive all game, tallying 206 yards and three touchdowns. Harding answered right back with two scoring drives of their own. First came a field goal and then Manningham struck again. This time he caught a deep pass and outran O'Neal and another defender 50 yards for his second TD of the night. After that play it was clear O'Neal could not handle “Super Mario” and the Ohio State commit was moved to safety to shadow Manningham from deep.
Glenville came back, engineering a 65-yard drive capped off by a short Conners run to close the deficit to 5 at 17-12. Glenville struck again before intermission by sacking Harding’s punter on his own six and scoring off a Nelson pass to tight end Robert Rose to take a 18-17 lead going into the half.
After the break, Glenville built their lead to 26-17 thanks to a 68-yard touchdown jaunt by Conners and a two-point conversion. Shortly thereafter, Harding lost the ball in its own redzone and the Tarblooders were on the Harding one yard line with a chance to put the game away. But the Raiders weren't done yet! On 4th and goal at the one with the crowd on its feet, Arvell Nelson rolled out and turned up field but was stopped mere inches from the goal line by Ian Vasil. After a 5 yard Glenville offsides penalty, Harding wasted little time taking advantage of their newfound momentum. Mario Manningham was on the receiving end of another pass and outran several defenders, including O'Neal from his safety position, 94 yards to pay dirt! The scintillating play pulled the Raiders within two, down 26-24.
Harding got the ball back with less than four minutes to go in the 4th and Mario stepped up yet again. He hauled in a poorly thrown pass where he had to win the ball from a defender to keep the drive alive on third down. The Raider march eventually stalled and they decided to punt with 1:47 on the clock and two timeouts left.
After two Glenville runs the clock ran down to a little over a minute left. With the Tarblooders near midfield, the crowd started file out of Mollenkopf Stadium. But as the famous Michigan mantra goes, “those who stay will be champions.” Manningham certainly proved that to be true when he turned in the biggest play of the night in the waning moments of the game.On third down, Glenville coach Ted Ginn shocked many onlookers when he called a screen pass. Mario diagnosed the play right away quickly pounced on it. He caught the ball as if it were intended for him and took it 48 yards, untouched, for the score. That play capped off an amazing night where he tallied seven catches for 255 yards and 4 touchdowns while handling return duties as well.
Harding picked off another pass with 30 seconds left to seal the game and secure an improbable 30-26 comeback victory. All it took was a lot of heart and a little bit of "Super Mario" magic!
Jamario O' Neal will have his chance at redemption when the two Ohio stars strap on the chin straps years down the line as part of the best rivalry in all of college sports!
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