While the ink is still relativity wet on the pages of its brief novel, New Manchester authored a new chapter to the annals of the program after knocking off Lithia Springs, 38-0, to clinch its first-ever playoff berth in school history.
The milestone was confirmed with this lopsided win and Hiram’s 7-0 victory over East Paulding.
“This is a special feeling,” said New Manchester coach Rob Cleveland. “We opened the school four years ago and this was the goal of these seniors when they were freshman. Once you get there [playoffs], everyone goes back to 0-0. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5-5 or 10-0, if you make the playoffs, you have a chance. This is tribute to the hard work the kids have put in this season, and I’m so proud of them.”
The Jags’ explosive offense kept the scoreboard operator busy all evening with leads of 14-0 at the end of the first quarter and 28-0 at the break.
New Manchester posted one big play after another in the first half. Running back Omahri Jarrett set the tone when he took off for a 31-yard touchdown sprint for the game’s first score. After forcing a turnover-on-downs, Tyler Simmons added his name to the stat sheet with a 70-yard touchdown reception from Tabashi Thomas to close the first quarter.
The second quarter featured short and long-distance highlights. Brian Herrien had an eight-yard scamper to put the Jags up by three scores. New Manchester put the game out of reach on a 56-yard pitch-and-catch from Thomas to Tyrone Scott near the close of the half.
“We have good wide receivers, backs and linemen. We pushed ourselves and put in a lot of hard work to get to the playoffs. It’s now a new season for us,” said Thomas.
New Manchester added 10 points in the third quarter on a field goal by Jesse Theodocion and a fumble recovered in the end zone by Ryan Santos. Per Georgia High School Association rules, the game featured a running clock for the fourth quarter.
While it was all smiles for the Jags, the crushing defeat only added to the chills from the misty nighttime wind and rain for Lithia Springs.
This loss marks the third week in a row the Lions were held scoreless. During this run, Lithia Springs has been outscored 142-0.
Against, New Manchester, the Lions focused on trying to establish the run, but their turnovers and penalties became stumbling blocks for progress. On defense, the Lions were unable to plug in gaps for huge rushing lanes and the safeties were caught out of position for long runs after the catch by New Manchester’s receivers.
“We had a plan to run the ball at them. We ended up getting an unfortunate penalty that stalled our drive. They didn’t have long sustained drives; they had quick spurts, long runs and big pass plays,” said Lithia Springs head coach Craig Chatman. “It’s frustrating for all of us. I want something positive for them. We’re going to go back to work and try to send our seniors out on a good note.”
With the win, New Manchester improves to 6-3 and 5-3 in Region 5-AAAAA. Next week, the Jags play at Alexander for more than just local bragging rights and a county championship. Playoff positioning will be on the line when the two neighboring schools suit up in the regular season finale. Alexander’s 32-14 loss at South Paulding means the winner of next week’s affair will earn the No. 3 seed in the region.
“We’re going to get to work on Alexander this weekend. We’re going to play as hard as we can Friday night and hope good things happen,” said Cleveland.