By: Ashley Gulick
Looking to improve their record on their first homecoming night, the New Manchester Jaguars suffered a numbing loss to the Villa Rica Wildcats, 34-14.
Friday's meeting also marked the first game that New Manchester head coach Rob Cleveland faced the Wildcat team he coached from 2006-2010, before taking the reins with the Jags.
The first half of play belonged to Villa Rica's offense, putting up an effortless 27 points and showcasing a very effective rushing game led by running back Jaylon Cox.
However, the Jags were not ready to go down that easily and put up what looked to be a promising drive with just 44 seconds left until the half. After a catch by Omahri Jarrett brought the ball to the 10-yard line and backed up by a carry from Ronnie Hall, the Jags were in prime position to gain a much needed touchdown and avoid a premature shutout.
But, after an illegal procedure call cost New Manchester a look at the goal, scoring was left in the hands of quarterback Tabashi Thomas. With just three seconds left before halftime, Thomas looked for an open receiver on a pass to the end zone, but the Wildcat defense did not falter in their coverage, leaving the Jags scoreless through the first two quarters.
New Manchester trailed 27-0 at the half.
After the half, the Jags came out with the early momentum in the third quarter, and with 6:58 on the clock, were once again positioned at the one-yard line. On a quick snap the following play, Ryan Santos found a gap in the Wildcat defensive line and earned the Jags first score of the night.
With nothing to lose, New Manchester tried successfully for the two point conversion, with a faked field goal and a run past an unsuspecting Villa Rica line by Demontez Fielder. The 2-point play made the score 27-8
Defensively, the Jags looked settled during the second half and showed improvement against Villa Rica's seasoned offense.
With 7:05 left in the final quarter of play, New Manchester continued their second half surge after Santos earned his second touchdown of the game. Looking to try for another two point conversion and close the gap, Thomas went for the fake again, but this time came up short. The Jags trailed 27-14.
After the Wildcats recovered a New Manchester fumble with 2:10 left in regulation,
Villa Rica used their ground game to run the clock down to 11 seconds. After a quick route to the end zone on fourth down from Maurice McGuire, the Wildcats sealed their victory over the Jags.