Just as it appeared Manhattan had taken a three touchdown lead late in the third quarter Friday night, the score was wiped out by a penalty. It proved to be a critical shift in momentum and nearly cost the team in its season opener.

The Tigers turned the ball over on downs a short time later, and then Florence-Carlton scored twice over the final four minutes of the frame to take a 22-21 lead into the fourth quarter.

The penalty, Manhattan coach Chris Grabowska noted, began a series of tough breaks as Florence scored on touchdown passes of 73 and 30 yards to pull in front.

“We score and it gets called back. Kinda caught a bad break on a penalty I guess. Ended up turning the ball over on downs,” said Grabowska. “They struck fast and they onside kicked and scored on the next play. It was pretty crazy.”

But Manhattan, which is last year’s state Class B runner up, displayed its experience down the stretch and rallied to beat the Falcons 35-29 in overtime.

“Our boys just have a lot of resiliency. They’ve been around the program for a long time and they know what it takes to win,” Grabowska said. “They just found a way to win.”

After Florence-Carlton tied the game late in the fourth to force overtime, the Tigers won the coin toss and opted to play defense first in overtime. The Falcons then missed a 33-yard field goal after failing to get into the end zone.

“We’re confident in our defense. Our defense is always well prepared and ready to go for the game,” said Grabowska. “We kind of knew what they were going to do, so we got a stop there.”

Two plays later, Toby Veltkamp hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Caden Holgate to win the game. It was the third touchdown pass of the contest for Holgate, who completed 17 of 25 attempts for 176 yards in his first-ever start at the position.

“Had a little bit of a slow start, but he got it figured out,” said Grabowska. “Started taking command of the offense and started moving the ball.”

Manhattan’s defense set the tone early, scoring on fumble and interception returns for a 14-0 lead.

Fred Livezey scooped the ball up after Falcons quarterback Pat Duchien lost on handle while being sacked, and scampered 53 yards for the first score. Then, early in the second quarter, Gabriel Delgatty picked off an ill-advised throw by Duchien and scored on a 55-yard return.

Duchien went on to have a big night, however, completing 13 of 20 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a 1-yard run to trim the deficit to 14-7.

Holgate’s first TD pass, which covered 16 yards to Corban Johnson, stretched the lead to 21-7 at halftime. Then he threw a 2-yard TD pass to Isaac Richardson in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rallied to take a 29-22 lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Tigers finished with 355 yards of offense, but committed a turnover and 10 penalties.

“Our boys battled hard and found a way to win. I was proud of them for that,” said Grabowska. “But we have a lot of stuff to clean up and fix moving forward.”

Manhattan begins conference play Sept. 11 at Three Forks.

“That’s always a great rivalry game. It’ll be no different this year,” said Grabowska. “We’re looking forward to going over there and playing them.”

Manhattan 35, Florence 29

Manhattan               7  14   0   8  6  -  35

Florence                    0    7  15  7  0  -  29

Man - Fred Livezey 53 fumble return (Drew Demming kick)

Man - Gabriel Delgatty 55 inteception return (Demming kick)

Flo - Pat Duchien 1 run (Zaluski kick)

Man - Corban Johnson 16 pass from Caden Holgate (Demming kick)

Flo - Blake Shoupe 73 pass from Duchien (Round kick)

Flo - Shoupe 30 pass from Duchien (Luke Maki pass from Duchien)

Man - Isaac Richardson 2 pass from Holgate (Johnson pass from Holgate)

Flo - Tristian Pyette 61 fumble return (Round kick)

Man - Toby Veltkamp 9 pass from Holgate (no PAT)