Last week the Alexander football team battled South Paulding, with the winner claiming the second spot in Region 5-AAAAA and a first round home game for the state playoffs. The Spartans defeated the Cougars, 32-14, and will finish behind Allatoona.
Alexander, with the loss, now must try to prevent falling even further in the region as New Manchester makes the short trip across the county to compete for the No. 3 spot in the final game of the 2014 regular season.
“We want to win this game,” said NMHS coach Rob Cleveland. “Alexander is a machine on offense and scores a lot of points. I think it is a very even match-up.”
The Jaguars are coming off a franchise victory against Lithia Springs last week. The win over the Lions allowed New Manchester to clinch a postseason berth for the first time in their short history. The Cougars cannot fall below fourth, and will also go on to the state tourney, a position they clinched a couple of weeks ago.
Alexander is currently 6-2 in the region and 7-2 overall. They have the second best offensive production in the region, averaging 33 points per game. Defensively, they rank seventh out of 10 teams, after allowing 28 points per game. New Manchester is a game behind the Cougars with a 5-3 region record. They are 6-3 overall. The Jags rank fifth in the region in offensive output with 29 points per game. They are fourth defensively, allowing an average of 19 points.
AHS started the season with four straight wins, including victories over the bottom teams in the region in Paulding County, Chapel Hill and Lithia Springs. They outscored the three region opponents, 114-56. After allowing 62 points against Allatoona in week five, the Cougars won three more games, beating Hiram, Villa Rica and East Paulding. AHS is coming off their heartbreaking loss to South Cobb.
New Manchester opened the season with three victories in a row, including two region wins over Hiram and Villa Rica. The Jaguars then struggled against the elite teams in 5-5A with three straight losses coming against East Paulding, South Paulding and Allatoona. Over the past three weeks, New Manchester has rolled through the same order of lower region opponents Alexander started with. The Jags have beaten Paulding, Chapel Hill and Lithia Springs in order, outscoring the three, 113-30. Both teams opened the season with Douglas County, New Manchester beat DC, 35-20, while Alexander won, 30-12. The scores go to show just how even the two teams are heading into this week’s game.
AHS has been lead to their second consecutive state tourney by quarterback Baylor Whitfield. Whitfield has completed 62-percent of his passes for 1,510 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has only five interceptions. Whitfield’s favorite target this year has been Isaac Zico. Zico has 46 receptions for 739 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Caleb Freeman led the rushing attack for the first half of the season and currently has 498 yards off 122 carries. He has scored six times. Since joining the team in game five, Mikell Lands-Davis has taken over the ground game with 503 yards on 103 carries. He has scored five times.
Defensively, The Cougars are led by middle linebacker Jordan Pounds, who has 102 tackles, including 53 solo. Defensive end Tray Jureidini-Wyche has a team high 17 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. He is second in total tackles with 75.
New Manchester has been led in the 2014 season by their quarterback, Tabashi Thomas. Thomas is having a spectacular year. He has completed 89-of-174 passes for 1,534 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has six interceptions. Thomas spreads the ball around to many receivers, including Jacob Battle, Tyrone Scott and Isaiah Britt.
The Jaguars also have two very capably tailbacks in Omahri Jarrett and Brian Herrien. Jarrett has made a verbal commitment to play at Georgia Tech next fall, as has Alexander’s Lands-Davis. Both Jarrett and Herrien are also excellent return men on special teams. Along with Thomas, a mobile QB, the trio has rushed for a combined 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Defensively, Robert Walker has consistently been at the top of tackles list each week, while Ryan Santos leads the team in tackles for a loss and sacks.
Both teams have veteran, above averages kickers. Alexander’s special teams unit is led by Andrew Chandler. New Manchester’s unit is led by Jesse Theodocion.
The winner of the game Friday night, which is set for 7:30 p.m. at AHS, will get the loser of the championship match between Stephenson and Creekside. The loser will play the region champion in the first round of the playoffs.
“Basically this is free football,” Cleveland said. “After this game our records will reset back to 0-0. It does’t matter if you are 10-0 or 5-5, everyone will be back to an even playing field.”