Manchester football team ‘peaking at right time,’ coach says
NEW FRANKLIN — The Manchester High School football team finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and a 5-2 mark in the PAC-7 (Principals Athletic Conference). The Panthers ended the season as the league’s No. 2 team.
“I think we’ve had a pretty good season,” coach Jim France said. “A lot of teams would like to win eight games and not many of them do. We’re disappointed we didn’t win the league championship, but we’re No. 1 in the region. We played a pretty tough schedule, and we won enough games to be rated the No. 1 team in [Region 15] as far as the computer points go.”
The top-seeded Panthers will host No. 8-ranked Youngstown Ursuline High School (4-5) tomorrow, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” France stated. “We just have to keep playing good football. Once you get to the playoffs, everybody that you play is good. We’re going to have to rise up each week. Usually, the first game’s the toughest one, so we’ll just have to play as well as we can.”
The coach said he is happy with the way his team is playing as the playoffs approach.
“We started the season off with three quick wins and then we lost our first league game. Then we won four or five in a row,” he said. “I’m pleased with the progress of the team. I think we’re a lot better team now than we were when we started. I think we had a couple weeks where we didn’t make a lot of progress, but most weeks we got better each week, and we’re playing good football right now. I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
On offense, Manchester is led by junior quarterback Bavin Parks.
“He’s done a good job leading the team. He’s a smart player,” the coach said. “[In the post season], we need him to show some leadership, and hopefully we’ll be able to diversify the offense a little bit if he’s able to pass the ball. We’re looking to use him as a passer and a runner, so we’re hoping that he can do those things.”
According to France, the team’s offense has run the ball well this season.
“We averaged about 250 yards rushing per game, which is pretty good,” he said. “I think our offensive line has done a good job and we have some good, hard-nosed running backs. So, we’re doing pretty well on offense.”
On the other side of the ball, France said the defense has “gotten better each week.”
“I think our tackling has gotten better and our pass coverage has gotten better, so we’re making improvements on the defensive side every day,” he stated. “Junior defensive tackle Nathan Hayes is a kid who has really stepped up on the defensive side of the ball for us. He’s also done a good job running the ball. I think he’s scored like 14 touchdowns for us. He’s someone who was not real known commodity, but he’s come through real well for us.”
The team captains this year are offensive tackle Jake Hansel, running back Austin Klein, linebacker John Beavers and safety Dakota Craig.
“They’re all good players who lead by example on the field,” the coach said. “They’re also good leaders, and I think the players look up to them. They’ve given us good leadership on and off the field all season.”
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