New Manchester played sloppy at times with missed tackles, penalties and lost fumbles, but in the end, it wiped the slate squeaky clean with an impressive come-from-behind victory on Homecoming night to versus Paulding County, 34-20.
The Jaguars erased a 13-7 deficit at the half with a 20-point explosion in the fourth quarter to snap their season-long three-game losing streak and improve to 4-3 and 3-3 in Region 5-AAAAA.
“For us, the playoffs started this week. We have to win four in a row. The kids came out and played hard and did what they had to do,” said New Manchester coach Rob Cleveland. “In my eyes, this is the biggest win in school history. It keeps our senior class in contention for a playoff spot and the dream is still alive.”
New Manchester shot itself in the foot early going down 13-0 before it cracked a dent in the scoreboard.
Paulding County’s ground game was busy at work with running back Dondre Ledford and quarterback Tre Lewis posting touchdowns on short-yardage plays in the first and second quarter.
As the half was drawing to a close, New Manchester quarterback Tabashi Thomas turned a bleak situation into a crowd pleasing highlight as he bobbed and weaved 88 yards downfield behind some text book downfield blocking for a touchdown.
The Jags took this momentum with them to the locker room at halftime, but the extended break during the homecoming coronation appeared to cool off the heat generated by Thomas’ run. Both teams traded multiple possessions throughout the third quarter until Thomas hit Tyrone Scott on an inside route. Scott then broke a tackle, turned around and raced to the end zone, putting New Manchester ahead, 14-13.
New Manchester opened the fourth quarter with another touchdown scramble by Thomas. Unfortunately, the extra point was no good, leaving the score at 20-13.
Despite seeing its initial 13-0 lead vanish, Paulding County didn’t throw in the towel. The Patriots bounced back on their next possession with a scoring drive of their own which was capped off by Lewis, who called his own number on a 14-yard touchdown run to even the score at 20-20.
However, the Jags wasted little time sulking over Lewis’ run. Tyler Simmons fielded a short kick and busted up the middle as if he was propelled from a cannon for a 75-yard touchdown return to give the hometown squad a 27-20 lead.
The seesaw affair continued with Paulding County moving the chains after the kickoff return. But unlike before, this drive failed after an errant snap that went over Lewis’ head and was recovered by the Jags.
On the very next play, Brian Herrien took a handoff up the gut and found a huge opening that resulted in him blowing by the defense for a 58-yard touchdown to confirm the win.
“We got some momentum in the second half. We’re athletic and we have skilled players. Our kids played hard, we got our offense going strong and I’m so proud of our kids,” said Cleveland.
New Manchester currently sits in a three-way tie with East Paulding and Hiram for fourth place in Region 5-AAAAA. East Paulding has the tie-breaker over the Jags following a 31-28 win on Sept. 26. New Manchester’s next playoff-type game is on the road at winless Chapel Hill.