Conant took advantage of three momentum-changing plays in first half to win its second football game of the season, a 26-7 victory at Wheeling Friday in a Mid-Suburban League crossover that spoiled the inaugural game on the Wildcats' new turf field.
"We don't want to play our best game in the second week," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. "We tackled poorly, and we weren't happy about that."
The Cougars made big plays on offense, defense and special teams. The defense sacked Wheeling quarterback Tyler Brady 5 times and forced a fumble that led to a score.
On the first play of its second possession, Conant struck for an 81-yard touchdown pass from Matt Cullen (7 of 16 for 171 yards) to Tim Manczko (4 catches for 123 yards). Manczko took the short pass on the left side of the field, eluded four tacklers and then cut back and raced untouched the rest of the way.
"We've got a lot of plays designed for him," Cullen said. "The chemistry is building for the team, and especially with Tim.
"We've got a whole new offense that fits our personnel pretty good," Cullen said.
Conant (2-0) made it 14-0 when it recovered a punted ball after a Wheeling player inadvertently touched the ball. On the very next play, Cordell Smith burst up the middle for a 24-yard score with 8:32 left in the first half.
Four plays later, Colin Otubu recovered a fumble after he and Josh Bojes sacked Brady. Despite a holding penalty, Conant drove 19 yards in 4 plays, the final 2 yards coming on Smith's second scoring run with 4:15 left in the half.
"This week in practice, our scout team did exactly what (Wheeling) did," Otubu said. "We're not taking 2-0 for granted."
Brady and Jeremy Frederick hooked up for a 29-yard touchdown on a fourth and 10 play with 10:08 left in the game, cutting the margin to 20-7. Manczko dove and deflected the ball, but Frederick was able to hang on to the pass and race into the end zone untouched.
Conant sealed it when Jacobi Sims reversed his field after being stacked up at the line of scrimmage, scoring from 5 yards out with 3:49 remaining.
Brady was 14-of-28 for 120 yards for Wheeling (1-1), and Ed Scanlon led all rushers with 70 yards on 14 carries.
"Bill's guys played good fundamental football," Wheeling coach Dave Dunbar said. "I tell my guys that the team that blocks and tackles the best will win. We didn't do that tonight.
"Our guys never quit, but we have to get better at the fundamentals," Dunbar said. "They're great kids, and they're going to work harder on that."