After falling in the first round of the playoffs to Elk Grove last season, Conant's football team had plenty of motivation for Friday night's game.
"That game stuck with us," said Conant senior receiver and defensive back Tim Manczko. "Especially for our seniors. We wanted to come out fired up and never quit playing."
It seems as if Manczko never does.
He did it all on Armed Forces Appreciation Night at Robert Haskell Stadium, making a key interception, running for a touchdown, catching 5 passes for 97 yards, making tackles to prevent big runs and punting five times for an average of 36 yards.
Manczko's all-around effort helped the visiting Cougars notch a 26-14 victory and take a 20-19 lead in the all-time series between the two teams who play for the Mayor's Cup each season.
"Special, special player," said Conant coach Bill Modelski of Manczko. "I've been coaching high school football for almost 30 years and he is as special and skilled players as I have seen."
"It wasn't a surprise to us," Calhoun said. "We watched film on him (Manczko) and got exactly what we expected. He's really a great football player."
It was a great start for the Grens who scored on their first possession when junior Adam O'Malley scrambled free and found John Pass for a 29-yard TD strike with 8:11 left in the first quarter.
Conant QB Danny Modelski struck less than three minutes later, almost duplicating the Grens' score. Modelski shook free from a big rush and tossed a 42-yard TD strike to Elias Gardener to tie the game.
"Everything was clicking," Modelski said. "We worked very hard on execution. The offensive line (Mike Smith, Vikrum Papa, Cody Foss, Alec Field and Omar Gonzalez) was really good. When I have time, it's much easier to make decisions."
Manczko's 4-yard TD run gave Conant a 13-7 late in the first quarter and the Cougars expanded the advantage to 19-7 when Jacobi Sims raced 44 yards up the middle for a TD, set up by Manczko's 32-yard reception from Modelski.
"I've been dreaming of this day since I was 2 years old," Modelski said. "With my dad being a coach (Cougars head coach Bill Modelski), I've been watching these games for 16 years and every year they get more intense. It's just a great feeling to win it."
Elk Grove was feeling a rally when it got to within 19-14 midway through the third quarter on a 4-yard TD run by Emmanuel Amofa.
But Conant closed the scoring when Modelski hit Mike Kos for a 9-yard TD with 2:30 left in the third quarter to cap a 67-yard drive and make it 26-14.
Elk Grove marched from its own 22 to the Cougars' 25 late in the first half when Manczko made his big pick.
"This is a nice win, but we have to put it in the rear-view mirror," Bill Modelski said. "We have to just see it as another building block."
"They're a great football team," Calhoun said. "I really thought we could win, but a lack of execution kept us from competing like we should have."