CLEARFIELD — Brady Manning emphasizes little things on the football field because when he was a player, it was the little things that made the difference.
In one instance Manning recalls, he forced a fumble on an option pitch and returned it about 50 yards for a touchdown.
“Read, recognize what the coach had told you to do, come up, play perfect position, and those things were going to happen for you,” said Manning, who played at Clearfield High and graduated in 1992.
Now Manning is helping teach those lessons as an assistant coach under Andre Dyson at his alma mater, and his tutelage is helping one person very special to him — his son, Colton.
Colton is a senior, do-it-all player for Clearfield. He plays slot receiver, linebacker, kicker and punter. Colton is coached by his father on the football field, then goes home and is coached by him in the living room.
“I’ve received probably the maximum amount of coaching any kid in high school’s ever had, and it’s been amazing, especially from such a great dad, such a great man like my father,” Colton said.
Like his father, Colton is seeing the fruits of doing the little things. One key lesson he’s learned is how to properly take on blocks. He said he used to try and cut under blocks and rely on his speed but has since learned to fight over them.
Trusting the techniques he’s been taught has clearly made a difference. In Clearfield’s 20-0 shutout of Davis on Sept. 8, he recorded a whopping 18 tackles, as recorded by the Darts’ statistician.
“It took me forever, but every single practice I’d work on that little thing, and every single day after practice, we’d go home and work on that little thing to get in my mind that I needed to fight over a block and how to pursue a block,” Colton said.
As Colton sees success from buying in, Clearfield’s football program is also seeing success.
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Whether that means a spot in the playoffs this season is yet to be determined, but the Falcons have won four games, equaling their win total from the last three years combined.
“Honestly, (Coach Dyson’s) not doing anything different than he has the (three) years before, but this year what’s different is the kids are actually buying into him and what he has to say,” Colton said.
Dyson frequently laments the “same old Clearfield” mentality that has permeated the program over the last several years. It’s the mentality that Clearfield is every other team’s punching bag — if you want homecoming night to be a continuous celebration of touchdowns, pencil Clearfield in as the opponent.
Brady Manning said the coaches are trying to get the program back to the “old Clearfield” that came before the “same old Clearfield.” The “old Clearfield” won a state championship during Brady Manning’s senior season exactly 25 years ago.
“Just hard-nosed football,” Brady Manning said to describe what Clearfield was like when he played. “It was just get after it. Line up against the guy across from you, and just whatever it took to beat them.
“It was the mentality of every time you stepped on the field, you stepped on to win the game, and the mentality that you were going to win the game.”
Though Clearfield has had many years of futility since it won the state championship, Brady — who was an assistant coach in the late 90s as well — never believed talent wasn’t in the area, even after so much talent left for Syracuse when it opened in 2007.
He came to Clearfield for his second stint with the program when Dyson was hired, even though he works a full-time job as a network engineer, because he thought he could help effect change. His first year was the junior year of his oldest son, Jaxon.
“After the school split and took so many kids away from (Clearfield) a lot of them felt that it took all of their athletes, when in reality, there’s still a lot of really good athletes here,” Brady Manning said. “They just needed to believe in themselves.”
The Manning family actually lives in Syracuse’s boundaries — a point of contention in the family because Colton’s sophomore sister, Whitney, is Syracuse cheerleader — but Jaxon and Colton chose to go to Clearfield for its International Baccalaureate program.
Colton said the feeling that the program is gaining momentum is noticeable.
“We’ll go into school and kids will actually be excited about the game,” Colton said. “People will show up to the games.”