EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 23, 2013

Latimore's stellar career ends on rough note

Off Tackle
David Willis

---- — CONCORD, N.H. — Manny Latimore was the last Pinkerton player to leave the field following the New Hampshire state title game loss, taking a moment to gather his thoughts after his final high school football game, before walking across the field alone, in the shadow of a massive celebration, holding tight to the Division 1 state finalist trophy.

This wasn’t how the record-setting Latimore’s career was supposed to end. The trophy he would be holding when he took off his Pinkerton Astros jersey for the final time was supposed to be a state title winning plaque.

The man that broke the Pinkerton Academy career rushing record always dreamed of walking off into the sunset the same way he started his career as a freshman, by winning a state title.

“It’s pretty rough,” said Latimore after yesterday’s loss. “To go to the state title game each of the last three years and not win another title is very hard. It’s really emotional. It just stinks. But I know we played hard.”

Latimore grinded his way to 97 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in his final game, seemingly lacking the top-level burst of speed that is his greatest weapon. He said he was healthy other than taking a hard hit early, but onlookers wondered if he had fully recovered from the leg injury suffered late in the regular season.

But while he could not bring home a title in final game, Latimore’s legacy is intact for those who watched him run over his four years as a varsity starter at Pinkerton.

“Manny had a great career,” said Astros coach Brian O’Reilly. “He is a great football player and a great kid. I will let the numbers speak for themselves.”

Latimore’s final career numbers are nothing short of tremendous.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound speedster rushed for 4,142 career yards — including 1,672 this fall — becoming just the 10th player in Eagle-Tribune area history to break the 4,000-yard mark. Making it more impressive is that, for his first two seasons, Latimore split carries with Eagle-Tribune All-Stars and 1,000-yard rushers Emmitt Smith and Kevin Davies.

The school’s previous rushing mark was set by Matt Jordan 20 years ago (4,099 rushing yards). Latimore also finished with 64 career touchdowns, just four short of the Pinkerton High record set by Astros icon and former Notre Dame running back Ryan Mihalko in 1987.

“I’m very proud of the last four years,” said Latimore. “It has been a fun ride. Pinkerton football is something that I will never forget. Making it to the title game four years in a row is a great accomplishment, too. But I wish we could have won at least one more.”

Latimore, also a dynamic kick returner who nearly willed his team to the title a season ago with 178 yards and a touchdown rushing and a 78-yard punt return for another score against Exeter, had to contend with a defense focused on stopping him after he rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown against Concord in the teams’ regular season meeting. The Crimson Tide also kicked away from him, especially after he nearly ran a kickoff back for a score, returning it past the 50 before it was called back for a block in the back.

Following the loss, he took time to comfort the man who will be taking over his job as the Astros’ top back next season, sophomore T.J. Urbanik.

“He’s pretty emotional,” said Latimore, who was sad but controlled after the loss. “I told him to keep his head up because he still has two years. He has a great future. No one wants it more than T.J. He’ll do great.”

But it will be a strange experience for Pinkerton fans — and coaches — when the four-year varsity stalwart is gone from the Pinkerton backfield next season. He is currently weighing post-high school football opportunities, including prep school.

“Manny was truly a pleasure to coach,” said O’Reilly. “There are great things for him down the road. He is going to do just fine playing football at the next level.”