DRYDEN — The Groton Indians did not attempt a single passing play Friday night against the Dryden Lions.
They didn’t need to.
The Indians spoiled the Lions’ Senior Night and rode the trio of running backs Kalib Manning, Jeter Neff and Aiden Harriott to a crushing 42-6 victory in Friday’s football season opener at Dryden High.
Manning rushed eight times for 202 yards and three touchdowns and had a sack on defense. Neff had 12 carries for 95 yards. Harriott had 11 carries for 42 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
Dryden received the opening kickoff and quarterback Brady Rose rushed for 31 yards to get the Lions across midfield, but they were forced backwards on the next two plays, and on fourth down the Indians blocked a punt and recovered at the Lions’ 26-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Manning carried the ball three times for 20 yards, including the game’s first touchdown, to which Harriott would tack on the two-point conversion to make it 8-0.
From that point on, it was a game of not only Manning, Neff and Harriott chewing up yards on the ground, but also the Indians dominating the Lions at the line of scrimmage — both on offense and defense.
The Indians’ offensive line opened up holes for Manning and Neff to use their speed and burst into the second level untouched. Manning especially took advantage of this with a 78-yard rush on the Indians’ first drive of the second half, only denied a touchdown by Rose coming across the field to bring him down at the 2-yard-line. He would get his revenge midway through the fourth quarter on a 52-yard touchdown scamper on which neither Rose nor anybody else on Dryden could run him down.
Neff showed off his speed on a 27-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter that made it 20-0.
Harriott’s touchdown rushes were from 1 and 2 yards out. They might not have been long sprints, but they were emblematic of the dominance of the Indians’ line in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
“We have seasoned backs,” Indians head coach Joe Manning said. “Our line does an awesome job. We’re big, we’re strong, we continued to move the ball.”
The Indians’ defensive line forced the Lions into eight plays of negative yardage in addition to the blocked punt, two sacks and a safety on a high snap on fourth down into the end zone.
Manning was quick to single out two linemen’s play in particular.
“Demitri [Brooks], he’s unbelievable,” Manning said. “He doesn’t only put pressure, he holds up where he’s supposed to be. He holds the line and we get through. Adam Howser’s another one.”
The Indians also held Rose to 5-of-15 passing for 56 yards and two interceptions. Rose did manage to save the Lions from being shut out by leading a six play, 64-yard drive in the fourth quarter on which the Lions got a first down on every play.
Rose went 3-of-3 for 39 yards passing on that drive before running for the touchdown from two yards out.
The Indians (1-0) will have a David vs. Goliath-esque challenge next Saturday as their next opponent is in a much higher division.
“We came in and we had a game plan and we executed it, and we have to get ready now for Ithaca, which is a very big school,” Manning said. “They’re a AA school and we’re a little D school.”
The Lions (0-1) will visit Watkins Glen next Saturday.