New Manchester, in its first playoff game in school history, traveled to Creekside Friday for the first round of the 5A state playoffs. Though New Manchester battled back, Creekside fought off a second half rally to pull away with a 44-27 victory.
Creekside (9-2), the 4-AAAAA Champions, got off to a fast start. Bricen Terry capped off their first drive of the game with a 3-yard touchdown run for an early 7-0 lead. Francisco Alejandre converted the extra point.
Creekside struck again several minutes later when Julian Gibbs ran it from 10 yards out to put the Seminoles ahead 14-0. The extra-point was good.
New Manchester (6-5) had several drives end in turnovers. Those early miscues cost the Jaguars as Creekside led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The game looked to be slipping away fast from New Manchester as Creekside went ahead 21-0 on a 48-yard touchdown run by Tysean Carter just two minutes into the second quarter.
New Manchester, with their backs against the wall, responded on the ensuing kickoff. While their offense was stagnant early, their special teams gave them a boost when Tyler Simmons returned the kick 70 yards for their first score of the game. Jesse Theodocion converted the extra-point to make it 21-7.
After a Creekside field goal extended their lead to 24-7, Tabashi Thomas answered for New Manchester. Thomas, under pressure, scrambled left, then right, then found an open Tyrone Scott in the back of the endzone, making it 24-14 with 6:42 left in the second quarter.
With just 51 seconds left before halftime, Carter broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run, helping the Seminoles take a 31-14 lead into the half. Carter finished with almost 200 yards on the ground.
New Manchester stormed out the gate to begin the third, outscoring Creekside 13-0 in the quarter. It seemed to be a bit of deja vu when Simmons returned the second half opening kickoff 68 yards, his second return touchdown of the game. The extra point cut the deficit to 31-21.
After forcing the Seminoles to punt, the Jaguars used a long passing play, from Thomas to Scott down the sideline, to set up their next score. Scott finished it off with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:51 left in the third to make it 31-27. The extra point attempt was unsuccessful.
Though New Manchester fought back, getting within one score of taking the lead, that was the closest they would get as Creekside used their ground attack and a strong defensive fourth quarter to put the game away.
Gino Appleberry gave the Seminoles some breathing room, scoring on a 2-yard run to extend their lead, 37-27. A bad snap cost them the extra point.
Down two scores, New Manchester had a chance late to get back into the game, but on fourth-and-eight with 3:26 left, Thomas’ pass fell incomplete resulting in a turnover on downs.
With just 1:54 left to play, Carter sealed the victory for the Seminoles with a 23-yard touchdown run. The extra-point was good for the final outcome 44-27.
“We feel like this game was a lot closer than the score indicates. In the first half we had some key turnovers. We don’t turn the ball over and it could be different,” said Coach Rob Cleveland. “We left it all on the field, so I can’t be any more proud of them, I just think there is great things to come for New Manchester football.”
It was successful season for the Jaguars, who finished fourth in the 5-AAAAA division, boasting its first ever playoff team in its school’s brief history.
“We are just awfully proud of our kids, especially our seniors,” said Cleveland. “This is our first senior class and they put us on the map. They put us in the playoffs and that will go down in history and will set the tone for years to come. I can’t say enough about the effort and attitude of our guys. They will always be part of the New Manchester family.”
Creekside will play the winner of Drew and Glenn Academy next Friday in the second round of the state playoffs.