Both teams have struggled in 2012, but have shown signs of a promising future in the 5-AAAAA region.
The Jaguars are on a seven game skid after winning their first two games of the season, but the offense has played well in the last four games.
Against Rome, on Sept. 28, New Manchester (2-7) scored 35 points, but the defense could not contain the Wolves in a loss. Over the next three games against Allatoona, South Paulding, and Villa Rica, who are all top-6 teams in an 11 team region, the Jags managed to score at least 13 points in each game.
New Manchester is currently ranked ninth in 5-AAAAA and the key factor has been the defense, which has allowed an average of 28-points against per game.
Hiram (4-5) has been a little better than the Jags in 2012, averaging 22 points on offense and allowing 20 points per game on defense. They are currently ranked seventh in the region.
The Hornets are coming off a dominating victory over Woodland-Bartow, after losing their last three games, including a 20-17 overtime thriller against Allatoona, who is tied with East Paulding with 9-0 records this season. The Jags were edged out by Woodland 13-12 earlier in the year.
Hiram will bring a solid offense to Douglas County tonight, an offense that broke the school single game total yards record with 532 against East Paulding on Oct. 12.
The Hornet offense is led by a talented quarterback, who is also aided by several skilled running backs.
Against Woodland last week, senior quarterback Rodrick Harrison completed 7-of-12 passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Chris Miller rushed for 99 yards on 14 carries. Junior tailback Jamal Hinds added 77 yards on 12 carries.
Defensively the team has struggled this season, as also seen in the East Paulding game, which the Hornets lost 56-30. However, last week, Hiram was able to pick up their first shutout of the season.
Leading the defense was junior defensive back DJ Jackson, who came up with a late interception to seal the shutout. Senior Dakota Adair was the leading tackler with seven, including one forced fumble. Senior Devon Pogue was close behind with six tackles, two for a loss.
“Hiram is extremely talented across the board and their record doesn’t show that because of some injuries they had earlier in the year,” said New Manchester head coach Rob Cleveland. “They have a two-dimensional attack on offense and are very athletic on defense.”
New Manchester is coming off a much needed off week, and will look to end the season on a positive note by picking up their third win of the season.
The Jags will go into the game with an eye on the future, moving their current QB, Tre Wilson to a full time linebacker, and allowing freshman QB Tabashi Thomas to get the start under center.
“Tobashi is part of the future of our program and we wanted to give him a start under the lights on Friday night,” Cleveland said. “I’m sure there will be a nerve factor but we are going to try and put him in a situation to be successful.”
As for Wilson, Cleveland said when the idea of a chance was brought to his junior QB two weeks ago, Wilson welcomed the move.
“He is one of our team leaders and just wants to win,” Cleveland added. “I expect a big ball game out of him on defense and next year I believe he will be one of our defensive leaders on the field.”
As for success tonight, Cleveland says it will all come down to finally putting a complete 48 minutes together.
“We have been in parts over every game all season,” he added. “The kids play hard but with our youth we just have not been able to finish games, but I feel good about our future.”
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.