Continuing their run of tough opponents through the heart of the 2014 football season, the New Manchester Jaguars will host Paulding County Friday night in their annual Homecoming Game.

Even in a loss to Allatoona, the Jags played perhaps their best game of the season defensively last Friday. The Buccaneers currently sit by themselves in first place in Region 5-AAAAA and have the region’s best offense at 41 points per game. New Manchester managed to hold Allatoona to only 28 points, and had many opportunities to cut into the deficit in the second half, but the offense struggled in the redzone.

The Bucs took a 14-0 lead in the first half as the Jags struggled to move the ball past midfield behind back-up quarterback Tikall Petty. Petty did not play badly, but was limited in his opportunities to make big plays.

After punting the ball away to open the second half, New Manchester had a chance to score when they recovered a fumble at Allatoona’s 15 yard line. The Jaguar player took the ball to the five, but lost control, giving the ball back to the Bucs. Allatoona would go 95 yards for their third score.

After the touchdown, Tabashi Thomas, New Manchester’s starting quarterback, who had been dealing with an injury, entered the game. His speed and athletic ability added a new dimension to the Jaguar attack and NMHS was able to start moving the ball down the field.

Thomas was aided by a big kickoff return by Georgia Tech commit, Omahri Jarrett. Thomas moved the ball into the redzone off a 22 yard run, but a penalty would push the team back. Thomas managed to make up most of the yards on the ensuing play, but on 4th-and-3, at the 11 yard line, the New Manchester QB scrambled for the first down, but came up inches short.

After forcing a punt by Allatoona, Thomas did not take another chance at a redzone stall, hitting Jarrett on a 49-yard pass for six points. The kick was good, making the score, 21-7. The Jags then went for on onside kick, and were successful in recovering the ball. However, on the first snap of the ensuing drive, Thomas went for a deep pass on a roll-out, and the ball was intercepted by a Buccaneer.

Allatoona put the game away on a late score.

New Manchester is averaging 24 points per game this season and are also allowing 24. That puts them in a tie for sixth offensively in the region and in a tie for fifth defensively.

Paulding County has put up almost identical numbers. They are averaging 25 points on offense and 24 points allowed on defense. Both teams share identical records at 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the region. The Patriots are coming off a 42-29 loss to South Paulding.

Paulding has much on the line this week as they try to earn their fourth win. They have not had a four win season since 2009. The Patriot offense is led by receiver Antonio Golden, who has multiple games of 100-yards or more. Caleb Sailors leads the ground attack.

Defensively, the team is led by tackles Brandon Ballard and Noah Braden, and linebackers Thomas Siah, Nick Wright and Ta’Korey Boykins. Marc Toussaint and Diante Ruffin have shown versatility at defensive back.

“This is the best Paulding County team I have seen in a couple of years, with an explosive offense and a defense that swarms to the ball,” said NMHS coach Rob Cleveland. “This is basically a playoff game because the loser, while mathematically can still make the playoffs, will need some help getting in. The winner keeps still controls their own destiny.”

New Manchester has won both meetings between the two schools, which have been decided by a touchdown or less. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.

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