MANHATTAN — When Quinn McQueary wasn’t lighting up Choteau’s defense with his arm and legs, lightning was illuminating the cloudy sky around Manhattan High’s football field.
When the lightning, as well as rain, finally got a little too close to comfort, teams were sent to their locker rooms and players and fans slowly left the football stadium. But not before the hometown Tigers had built a 27-6 third quarter lead, which eventually held as the final score after the contest was called following an hour weather delay.
It was an unusual start to the 2012 season for Manhattan, which had endured another weather delay during the 2010 campaign. That contest, against Red Lodge, resumed after a 45-minute delay. But this particular storm cell settled into the area and the safety of players and fans was more important than going back onto the field and risking a deadly lightning strike.
“It would sure be hell if you went back out there and some kid got struck by lightning. I don’t care about the game, it wouldn’t be worth it,” ninth-year Manhattan coach Dale McQueary said. “Or some parent or a kid not even playing. Especially sitting up in those (metal) stands.”
Prior to the game being called, it was the Quinn McQueary show. The senior quarterback ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Tigers to a comfortable 21 point lead. He finished with a game-high 89 yards rushing, and completed 6-of-9 passes for 117 yards.
Coach McQueary noted he’s trying something new this season with his son under center following a long discussion with Billings Central coach Jim Stanton at a coaching clinic over the summer. The Rams, like Manhattan, run a Wing-T offense and Quinn McQueary thrived in the opener with a new offensive package.
“Quinn, he likes the shotgun because he can see better. He can make his runs a lot better from the shotgun position,” coach McQueary explained. “So we just tweaked our offense a little bit and just simplified it. It’s going to be pretty good for us.”
The 6-foot-1 Quinn McQueary displayed his running ability on the team’s second possession. On first down from midfield he took a snap on a run option play, kept the ball, and raced 50 yards into the end zone to give the Tigers at 7-0 lead at the 5:56 mark.
Choteau wasted little time responding, driving 54 yards on its ensuing possession for a touchdown. Quarterback Austin Walker capped the drive with a 4-yard run with 1:16 left in the opening frame, but the PAT failed and the score remained 7-6.
After that drive, Manhattan’s defense settled into the game and picked off Walker and came up with a big fourth down stop in the second quarter.
“I was happy with how or defense played. We made a couple of adjustments and took care of a couple things,” said coach McQueary. “They went down and drove on us and scored on us. But I think we made some adjustments after that and the defense played really well.”
Manhattan increased its lead to 14-6 early in the second quarter following a 79-yard drive. It was highlighted by a 14-yard reception from junior tight end Gavin DeJong, and capped by a 24-yard run from Quinn McQueary.
Freshman linebacker Chase Barta picked off Walker on Choteau’s ensuing possession, returning the ball to the Bulldogs’ 24. Two plays later, Quinn McQueary hooked up with receiver Nate Vanderby for a 25-yard gain. Initially the ball bounced off Vanderby’s shoulder pad, but the senior managed to haul in the deflection and reach the 2-yard line.
Two plays later, following back-to-back quarterback sneaks, Quinn McQueary had given Manhattan a 20-6 lead. Vanderby knocked in the extra point to make it 21-6.
Quinn McQueary and Vanderby hooked up three times for 89 yards in the contest, including a second half touchdown pass.
“I know we have a huge weapon. Nate’s fast and he’s got good hands,” said coach McQueary. “And then we’ve got Gavin DeJong at 6-(foot)-5 on the other end. We just need to throw it up to him, and he made a couple of nice catches.”
The Tigers punted on their first possession of the second half. But Walker and senior running back Brian Lightner fumbled the exchange on a hand off on the first play of the ensuing possession at their own 37.
Manhattan quickly capitalized with Quinn McQueary lofting a perfect pass to Vanderby for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:36 left in the third quarter. But following the touchdown, Manhattan Athletic Director Pat Lynch met with coaches and officials about the weather.
Teams were pulled off the field as a light rain began to fall at 8:28 p.m., and the game was called at 9:33 p.m. after more lightning was spotted in the area.
“We had a good meeting and of course they (the coaches) both wanted to play. And they both didn’t really want to go back after they both cooled down. Because then if you get a key injury it’s a bad choice to go back out and try to play,” said Lynch. “So it was really a no-win situation. Probably the best thing for the kids really because you get pumped up for a game then have to cool down for an hour. That’s tough.”
Manhattan 27, Choteau 6
Choteau 6 0 0 – 6
Manhattan 7 14 6 – 27
M - Quinn McQueary 50 run (Nathan Vanderby kick), 5:56
C - Austin Walker 4 run (conversion failed), 1:16
M - McQueary 24 run (Vanderby kick), 9:56
M - McQueary 1 run (Vanderby kick), 6:24
M - Vanderby 34 pass from McQueary (kick failed), 9:36