GIRARD - It was a tale of two halves for Girard in its season opener Aug. 27 against Akron Manchester at Arrowhead Stadium.
As good as the Indians looked in the first half, they looked just as bad in the final 24 minutes in a 21-14 loss to the Panthers in non-conference action.
Girard outgained Manchester 149-45 in the first half and forced four turnovers with two sacks, in taking a 14-0 lead at intermission. However, the Panthers turned it around after that, with 172 total yards to only 31 for the Indians. Manchester also controlled the ball for 17:06 to just 6:54 for Girard, and forced three turnovers.
"Manchester made some adjustments. You can't turn the ball over and put your head down," said Nick Cochran, who was coaching his first game for Girard after taking over for the retired Bud McSuley.
The loss snapped a streak of 11 straight regular-season wins for the Indians. They lost their first season opener since 2007 to Niles McKinley.
After a scoreless first quarter, Girard got on the board in the second as Dan Graziano connected on the first play of the drive to Landon Smith, who galloped for a 92-yard touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Indians linebacker A.J. DeVore intercepted a pass from Nick Peyakov and was tackled at the Manchester 18-yard line. Runs by Ahmad Eggleston and Graziano moved the ball to the 2 before Eggleston scored for the second Girard touchdown.
The Indians forced four turnovers in the first half: interceptions by DeVore and Smith and fumbles by Panthers running backs Shawn Dean and Tyler Masters.
Smith's interception ended a Manchester drive that lasted nine plays and 5:15. He picked off the ball inside his own 5-yard line and returned it to his 38 to end the Panthers' best scoring chance in the first half.
Both teams turned the ball over on their first possession of the third quarter.
Manchester (1-0) began the period by driving down to the Girard 19, covering 41 yards in 5:54. The drive ended on a fumble on a hook and ladder. However, the Indians fumbled the ball right back on the very next play, giving the Panthers the ball on the Girard 10. Three plays later Mark Noble scored from 1 yard out to get his team on the board. A blocked extra point made the score 14-6.
After a three-and-out by the Indians, Manchester then took over on Girard's 41. On a fourth and 6 on the 37, the Panthers gambled on a fake punt. The direct snap to Shawn Dean paid off for a 26-yard run down to the 11. Two plays later, Peyakov connected with Nick Miller for the score. Tyler Masters ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game.
"We have to come back; it's adversity," Cochran said. "You've got to fight and you've got to go. We didn't do that."
The Indians' game Friday at Struthers was after press time.