If you had Nate Reed in your star-of-the game pool, collect your winnings.
Manheim Central delivered a “special” gift for coach Dave Hahn’s birthday, a 16-7 victory over Susquehanna Township in the season opener Friday night at Elden Rettew Stadium.
It was the Barons’ 26th consecutive regular season win, a win gift-wrapped by special teams play.
Reed connected on field goals of 20, 26 and 30 yards, and Colby Wagner’s longest punt of a five-punt night produced the Barons’ lone touchdown of the game, Chris Pagano’s fumble recovery in the end zone.
Hahn told his postgame huddle, “An ugly win is better than a pretty loss.”
While you’d be hard pressed to call this win ugly, it had its homely moments.
The Barons’ green offensive line was slow to adjust to the speed of the game, taking a half to get its feet under it.
It was a half that saw Rutgers recruit and All-State quarterback Evan Simon put on the endangered species list as he scrambled to complete 3 of 9 passes for 34 yards and rush 11 times for 10 yards net.
“Teams are going to come after us, put pressure on our quarterback,” said Hahn. “We were attacking things, then sat back on things.”
Simon carried the load, so to speak, as the Barons ran 15 times for a net 9 yards in the half.
That stat took a major swing on the first play of the second half as Jake Harbach broke through the line for 48 yards on his way to a seven-carry, 65-yards night — all in the second half.
“We were able to pop that big one and it gave us confidence,” said Hahn.
They took the opening possession 66 yards to the Susquehanna Township 3 before stalling, with Reed splitting the uprights from 20 yards.
At the end of the Barons’ third possession, Wagner punted from his 34. Susquehanna Township deep-man Stevie Graves bobbled the punt at the 3 and Pagano covered it in the end zone for the touchdown.
“To capitalize on that and to have the smarts to cover it was great,” Hahn said.
Susquehanna Township QB Rahsaan Carlton had an evening, completing 16 of 26 passes for 193 yards, highlighted by a 59-yard scoring play to Owen Weimer.
Up 10-7 , Central missed — or was denied — an opportunity to go up more in the fading minutes of the first half.
Harbach recovered a fumble at the Indians’ 25 and Simon (7 of 2, 2 interceptions, 93 yards) went for broke, looking for Colby Wagner in the end zone.
Defensive back Bilal Wiedler forced a jump ball as the two fell to the turf and rolled over, twice. It was ruled Wiedler had possession and the interception.
Central cashed Harbach’s opening ramble with Reed’s second field goal of the evening, then took advantage of field position late for Reed’s 30-yard kick, icing the game.