Three weeks ago, when New Manchester capped off a three game losing streak with with a 28-7 loss at Allatoona High School, coach Rob Cleveland had a talk with his team.
In 2013, the Jaguars started the season 4-0 before dropping four straight games to miss the 5A state playoff tournament. This season, New Manchester started 3-0 but dropped to 3-3 after the losing streak. Cleveland told his kids after a very hard fought game against the No. 1 team in the region that they could not afford to lose another game. The 35 seniors, along with the rest of the team, needed four straight wins to qualify for the tourney.
In the past two weeks, New Manchester has bounced back, beating Paulding County, 34-20, and Chapel Hill, 42-10. This Friday, the Jaguars will look for their third straight win when they host Lithia Springs.
Lithia is a team that is struggling after a promising start to the season. The Lions had close scoring losses with Landmark (48-36) and Alexander (24-14) and a win over Chapel Hill (27-7) all in the first four games of 2014. Three weeks ago they also had a close Homecoming loss against Villa Rica (27-20). However, since then, Lithia has been shut out in back-to-back games with East Paulding (57-0) and South Paulding (47-0).
The Lions currently sit ninth in the 10 team region with a 1-6 record. They are 1-7 overall. Lithia is averaging 14 points per game on offense and is allowing 36 points on defense. New Manchester, after sharing the fourth spot in the region for the last few weeks, is currently in possession of the final playoff spot with a 4-3 record. The Jags took over sole possession thanks to Alexander’s win over East Paulding. East Paulding sits at 3-4 but does own tiebreaker rights over NMHS if the Jags should falter again.
New Manchester throughly dominated Chapel Hill last Friday. After allowing an early field goal, the Jags took a 14-3 lead at the break and went on to win, 42-10. Quarterback Tabashi Thomas continues to make plays with his arm and his legs. He had two deep passes that dropped down with his receivers in full stride. Both led to scores. He also rushed for the first down when he needed to and kept passing plays alive with his evasive footwork in the backfield. Both Jacob Battle and Tyrone Scott were favorite targets of Thomas on the evening.
Lithia was not able to accomplish much in their game for the second week in a row against two top region teams. South Paulding is currently tied for second with Alexander. East Paulding is just outside the playoff hunt but only lost to Allatoona by six points, Alexander by three points, and South Paulding by 10.
Lithia will face another tough opponent in New Manchester. The Jaguars are averaging 28 points per game this year, and allowing 22. They are 5-3 overall.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at New Manchester.