Manis leads 15 Falcon honors
Published 10:13 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Fuqua School’s young 2018 varsity football team that was undersized and undermanned came on strong late and finished as the state runner-up, drawing 15 Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) Division III all-state honors, including six first-team selections and the Coach of the Year honor for Head Coach Ben Manis.
Eight Falcons were recognized across the team’s 14 player selections.
“It was a little bit refreshing to see the guys get honored like that,” Manis said. “From how we started the season to how we ended it, it definitely ended on a higher note than we were assuming. The kids really grew together and played together well at the end of the year.”
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Fuqua played an ambitious schedule that included several VISAA Division II teams and finished the season with a 5-6 overall record.
Falcons junior Elijah Warner made the all-state first team three times — as a quarterback, linebacker and punt returner. Teammates joining him at the first-team level of recognition were senior linebacker Christian Adams, senior offensive lineman D.J. Williams and sophomore punter Ryan McKay.
Fuqua players making the second team included senior Frankie Denaro, as a defensive back and as a kick returner, junior Matt Osborn, as a wide receiver and as a defensive back, Adams, as a running back, and Williams as a defensive lineman.
Falcons receiving honorable mention were senior offensive/defensive lineman Isaac Drummond and sophomore running back Jackson Allen.
While the Coach of the Year honor often goes to the coach of the state champion, this time VISAA Division III coaches took note of what Manis did to help lead his team to its second straight state title game appearance, but this time with far fewer seniors and far less size up front.
Reacting to the coaching award, Manis said, “It’s great to have the respect of the coaches that I coach against and all, but it really goes to more of the assistant coaches, because there’s no way I could do it all myself, and a lot of their input goes into making things happen and making it successful, whether it’s Pops or Tyler Jenkins or Coach Rick Davis.”
“Rick Davis has been a key point of the Fuqua program for many, many, many years, and he’s a big reason why we can be successful, because he’s filled in, in several roles, wherever he’s needed,” Manis continued. “Just the football knowledge with the whole staff and just being able to talk things through as a staff makes it much easier to do what we do. So, yes, my name’s on it, but it really should go to guys like Rick and Pops and Tyler.”
“Pops” is a reference to Manis’ father, Tommy Manis.
Warner earned the rare distinction of making the all-state first team three times.
“I put him up, and I figured it was a little bit of a long shot because he had missed the first three or four games of the year with his hand injury …” Manis said. “He’s probably not a pure, pocket-passing quarterback, but as a football player, you hate to see him with the ball in (his) hands if you’re the opposite team, because is he going to run it? Is he going to throw it?”
The coach said Warner averaged about 150 yards passing and 100 yards rushing per game.
On defense, Warner compiled 47 tackles, one pass deflection and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
As a punt returner, teams often kicked away from him, but he returned one punt for a touchdown and another for a substantial gain.
Adams led Fuqua in tackles with 83, also logging a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“He was kind of like the quarterback on defense — everything ran through him,” Manis said.
The coach praised Williams for being a difference-maker on the line.
“The kid has some real talent and can move well for a kid his size,” Manis said. “He’s got a good work ethic and (is) an intelligent kid. His aggression really took off this year as far as with playing between the whistles and then being able to take it to the next level and then just having the grittiness.”
The coach highlighted McKay, who made some clutch kicks as a place kicker, for doing well despite changing circumstances, like a new holder and a new long snapper.
“I’m kind of the offensive coordinator, I guess, so I don’t love punting, but whenever he had a good snap, he was always consistent with his punting,” Manis said.