A sudden hush fell over Horn Field twice Friday night.
Once during a pregame moment of silence for Stone Hill and Nick Mankin – two Red Lion football players killed in a June car crash. And once when Manheim Township's Kade Kubicki scored the game-winning touchdown from six yards out with 39 seconds remaining, sealing a 22-15 defeat for the Lions in their emotional home opener.
The night was a roller coaster of emotions for the Red Lion fans, players and coaches. The Lions entered Horn Field carrying Hill's No. 46 and Mankin's No. 60 jerseys. Both teams wore stickers on their helmets in honor of Red Lion's fallen teammates and a Horn Field packed full of Red Lion fans donning Hill and Mankin jerseys held back tears as the Lions showed a five-minute tribute video on the scoreboard.
Members of the student section had Hill's and Mankin's names painted on their bodies and many in the crowd wore shirts emblazoned with the phrases, 'Forever in our hearts, forever a Lion."
And then there was a football game – a brief reprieve offering the community a chance to heal together on a Friday night under the lights.
"The kids knew what tonight was and they knew who they were playing for," Red Lion head coach Jesse Shay said. "I was worried about how the emotions would be, but I thought we did a good job of keeping our emotions in check and playing football."
The Lions' faithful, needing a reason to cheer, erupted when Dalton Grove found Ben Frey in the right corner of the end zone from 23 yards out, giving Red Lion a 6-0 lead in the second quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Erik Benjamin hit John Stutz over the middle on a slant route and the wideout did the rest, sprinting 69 yards to the house. Alex Keough then found the end zone with less than two minutes left in the half, but the Lions squandered three opportunities to score more: a missed field goal by Sam Emig, an interception inside the 5, and then time expired in the half with Red Lion at the Manheim Township 2-yard line.
Emig redeemed himself with a 21-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give Red Lion a 15-14 lead, but the Blue Streaks countered. Pinned deep in their own territory with less than two minutes remaining, Benjamin found Stutz and Riley Macdonald for gains of 50 and 20 on back-to-back plays. Two plays later, Kubicki scored and a last-ditch effort by the Lions offense came up short before time expired.
"We made too many mental mistakes," Shay said. "They only had three or four big plays all game, but it led to three touchdowns. So they have a choice right now. They can crawl in a hole and say, 'Poor us, we lost a game we should've won.' Or they can come out ready to go for a very good West York team next week."
Manheim Township0778—22Red Lion01203—15
RL — Ben Frey 23 pass from Dalton Grove (kick missed), 11:54.
MT — John Stutz 69 pass from Erik Benjamin (Francesco Spatafora kick), 10:14.
RL — Alex Keough 17 run (conversion failed), 1:21.
MT — Benjamin 39 run (Spatafora kick), 5:34.
RL — Sam Emig 21 field goal, 8:01.
MT — Kade Kubicki 6 run (Kubicki run), :39.
First downs 8 14
Rushes-yards 30-147 36-144
Passing 7-14-1 15-29-1
Passing yards 164 170
Total yards 311 314
Punts 5-31 5-35
Fumbles-lost 2-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 3-24 4-25
Rushing — MT, Erik Benjamin 10-11, Kade Kubicki 14-104, Nate Seprinski 6-32. RL, Dalton Grove 2-(-16), Alex Keough 20-68, Dylan Gurreri 8-38, Patrick Daugherty 6-54.
Passing — MT, Benjamin 7-14-1-164. RL, Grove 15-29-1-170.
Receiving — MT, John Stutz 4-129, Seprinski 1-14, Riley Macdonald 2-21. RL, Kendrick Boyd-Gillespie 9-77, Keough 1-30, Daugherty 1-2, Ben Frey 1-23, Dillon Hildebrand 1-13, James Jackson 2-25.