New Manchester’s historic season ended with the Jaguars suffering a playoff loss.
The Jaguars were the only county team to advance out of the first round of the playoffs this season.
A 37-7 loss to the Eastside Eagles prevented New Manchester from continuing what was a historic season of firsts under coach Cedric Jackson.
“It hurts,” New Manchester senior wide receiver Malik Laurent said. “It is very disappointing when you look up and your high school career is over with.”
Senior wide receiver Horatio Fields shared similar thoughts following the loss.
“You never think your season will end,” Fields said. “We had a special team and a special season.”
Under Jackson this season, the program won its first region title after defeating Chapel Hill for the Region 6-5A championship to capture the region’s top playoff seed.
The Jaguars defeated Hiram 21-17 to open the Class 5A playoffs. It was the program’s first state playoff.
New Manchester couldn’t get much going offensively in last week’s loss to Eastside, which was the No. 2 seed from Region 8-5A.
The Jaguars had 247 yards of offense, 171 coming on the ground.
Senior running back Teondre Carter led the way with 162 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Eastside rolled up 458 yards of offense as it advances to the quarterfinals for the second time in three seasons.
“When you get to the point where you’re in the Sweet 16, everybody’s a good football team,” Eastside coach Troy Hoff said. “Hats off to coach [Cedric] Jackson and his staff at New Manchester. They’re building a class-act program and the kids are coached up well. For us to come on the road in the Sweet 16 and come out and play that way, I’m really proud of our kids and staff.”
New Manchester’s only other state playoff appearance came in 2015 when the Jaguars lost to then defeating state-champion Creekside on the road.
The team finished with an 8-4 record, its most wins in a season in program history.
Seniors say they are proud to leave a legacy for upcoming seasons.
“It had to start somewhere and I’m happy it was our class to do it,” Fields said. “I think this season will help change the program. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Prior to this season, the Jaguars had suffered through four straight losing seasons, including going 2-8 last season as Jackson was named interim coach two weeks prior to the season starting.
Kevin Whitley was hired as the successor to Myron Terry, but he left the program in early July to take a position as a secondary coach at Georgia Southern.
Jackson, who was on the previous staff as defensive coordinator for three seasons, was named the acting coach.
In January, Jackson was officially given the job to lead the program.
New Manchester dropped down to Class 5A after several years as a smaller school in Class 6A.
After opening the region this season with a loss to Lithia Springs, the Jaguars got back on track to be in a position to play for a region title.
New Manchester was given forfeit wins over North Springs and Villa Rica after each of the programs had COVID-19 issues.
However, a win over Chapel Hill in the regular-season finale sealed the region title.
“I’m excited that I was a part of this season,” Laurent said. “It is very amazing at what we did.”