Manchester football team looking to defend league title
NEW FRANKLIN — Manchester football head coach Jim France said he likes what he has seen of his team’s work ethic so far.
“They’ve been working real hard, and we’ve had some good weather to get some hard work in,” he said. “They’re a pretty dedicated bunch of guys, and they’re giving their all. They’re pretty serious about the upcoming season. I like their overall attitude and their work habits.
Last year, Manchester finished 8-4 overall and 6-0 in league play, winning the Principals Athletic Conference-7 title in the process. However, France said, the team lost some important players to graduation.
“We don’t have a lot of experience back this year,” he said. “We lost 10 seniors last year, and there were some pretty good players in that bunch. But we’ve got a good mixture of five or six pretty good veterans and some younger kids this year. One of the things we’re going to look to do is gain some experience in the three nonleague games, so we can get ready for the fourth week of the season, when we open league play.”
One of the players who graduated following the 2012 season was Nick Peyakov, who had been the team’s quarterback for the past several years. France said senior Chandler Stahl will take over the job this season.
“He was a tight end last year and had been a quarterback when he was a sophomore and a freshman,” France said. “Obviously, he wasn’t going to play a lot last year behind Nick, so we made him a tight end, and he turned out to be a real good tight end. Now, he’s back at quarterback. He’s got good size, a strong arm and he’s pretty smart about the game of football.”
Another key player on offense is senior offensive tackle Jake Hansel.
“This will be his fourth year as a starter,” the coach said. “He was all-state last year in Division IV. He’s kind of been the core of our offensive and defensive lines for the last couple years. He’s one of our captains this year, so we expect a lot out of him, not only through leadership, but also the experience he has as a player.”
Another returning starter and team captain, France said, will be senior running back Austin Klein.
“We didn’t run the ball a whole lot last year, but we will be running more this year,” he said. “We expect some good things out of him.”
According to France, Manchester’s offense will have a different look this season.
“Last year, we were fairly explosive, but this year I think we’re going to be more of a ball-control team,” he said. “We’ll try to grind some yards out and keep the ball away from the other team’s offense. We’ll just be a different type of team.”
Two of Manchester’s top defensive players this season will be linebacker John Beavers and safety Dakota Craig.
“John’s a senior and one of our captains. He’ll be a team leader, and we’re expecting some big things out of him,” France said. “Dakota is a senior and a two-year starter, and he’s got some experience back there. He kind of directs the defensive backfield. He’s one of our captains also.”
One player who has been a pleasant surprise for the team so far this season, France said, is senior Bobby Bowen.
“He’s a guy who has been a special teams player for us since he was a sophomore, and he’s probably going to be a starting wide receiver and a defensive back,” the coach said. “He’s really coming into his own as a senior, and we’re looking for him to help us a lot.”
Heading into the season, France said Manchester has set three goals: “We want to give 110 percent every game, we want to win the league championship and we want to get into the playoffs,” he said. “Those are all things we’ve set our sights on, and up to this point we’ve been able to accomplish those goals most years, so we’ll try really hard to do it again this year.”
Manchester’s season will kick off Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Hillsdale High School, and France said it will be “really important” for the team to get off to a strong start.
“With younger kids, if you start off on the wrong foot, it can start to affect your attitude,” he said. “We want to get off to a good start. I think that’s really important for us for down the road.”
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