With New Manchester opening its doors in August 2011, this is also the first full varsity season for the football team. While their record may not show many wins, the effort is not on the scoreboard.
“The competition got tougher and your success is relative to your competition. We knew we would have some growing pains and take some lumps this season, but we’re getting better. All and all it’s positive and we’re building a solid program,” said head football coach Rob Cleveland.
Starting off in class AAAAA, the Jaguars have faced some top teams including East Paulding and Rome, which made the playoffs in 2011. While they did not score against East Paulding, New Manchester was able to get 35 points against Rome in their Sept. 28 meeting.
Still in the growing and learning process, the Jaguars, according to Cleveland, don’t have any star players.
“We don’t have any superstars, just 22 guys who give it all on the field,” Cleveland said.
Prior to facing Allatoona, the team had a total of 1,336 rushing yards and 320 passing yards and averaged 19.1 points per game.
Quarterback Trey Wilson has passed for 320 yards. Jacob Battle leads the team in receiving with 180 yards off 16 catches, for an average of more than 11 yards per catch. Ronnie Hall is one of eight running backs and leads the team in rushing with 483 yards on 74 attempts, averaging more than six yards per carry. Linebacker Mundarius Wright leads the team in tackles with 57.
With these “22 guys,” New Manchester football has made school history and showed others they can win, despite being a new and young school.
“We were projected by every poll to finish the season 0-10 so we’re better than they thought. We continued to play well while playing top 10 teams in AAAAA. But next year, we will be on a more level playing field,” Cleveland said. Through the season, with every win and loss, Cleveland said he has learned a lot about his players. He is the only coach in the school’s brief history after leading Villa Rica to 31 wins and a playoff spot between 2005 and 2010.
“They’re great kids. They play hard. We’re playing a lot of 15- and 16-year-olds against 17- and 18-year-olds, but they’re very coachable and fun to coach,” Cleveland said.
With only three games left in their season, the Jaguars know the playoffs aren’t an option for them this season, but there is hope for the future of the program if the players continue to work and play hard.
“I’m very pleased with their attitude and effort. I’m excited about the future of New Manchester football,” Cleveland said.