With Jordan in contention for its first victory since October 2015, Red Jackets head coach Justin Newman decided to go all in about halfway through the fourth quarter of Friday’s season opener.
After falling behind to Brookstone 14-0, the Red Jackets rallied back and were on the verge of tying the game with 7:57 left in regulation. Jordan attempted the tying extra point after quarterback Emmanuel Mann’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Barnes, but the play was negated due to a Brookstone penalty.
The ball was re-spotted at the one-and-a-half-yard line, which got Newman thinking a change in strategy was necessary.
“I thought, ‘You know what? We’ve got nothing to lose,’” Newman said. “Everyone thinks that if Jordan loses, hey, it’s OK. Let’s go out there and stun people.”
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Newman sent his offense back on the field, and the ensuing play couldn’t have gone better. Mann rolled out to his right and beat the Brookstone defenders to the end zone to put the Red Jackets up 15-14. The gamble got the Red Jackets rolling, as Mann later added a rushing touchdown to propel Jordan to a 22-14 victory.
Only afterward did Mann explain the quarterback keeper for the two-point conversion was not exactly what his coach had drawn up.
“The play was really not for me; it was for the running back,” Mann said. “I was not supposed to pull that. Their (defensive) end crashed down, and we were on the goal line. I just trusted my abilities, pulled it and we got it.”
It was that kind of night for Mann, who was the driving force offensively for the Red Jackets. Mann ran for 48 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter alone and showed off his arm throughout the night, piling up 116 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Mann chalked up the victory as a product of “New Jordan”, something Newman has been preaching all offseason. Mann dealt with subpar snaps from the shotgun formation all night, something he said would have started a fight in 2016. Instead, Mann kept his composure play after play, instead reacting quickly and turning near-disasters into positive yardage.
Newman’s pitch to a new era was about a comprehensive team effort, and Friday’s win had all those elements. A defense that was torn to pieces at times in 2016 made Brookstone pay by forcing two turnovers. The Jordan special teams unit, which was much maligned one year ago, blocked a Brookstone punt and avoided gaffes that could have eliminated their chances.
In all aspects of the game, the “New Jordan” mantra had suddenly become reality.
“If you asked the people when it comes to Jordan being down 14-7 at the half, they’d have told you that team was going to fold,” Newman said. “They answered the call, all of them. The defense stood tall and gave us turnovers. The offense marched down and got (the touchdown), and the defense did their job and held it at the end.”
Friday was Newman’s shot at his first win in his second season, and the Cougars made him wait until the clocks hit zeroes to celebrate it.
Brookstone (0-1), in the first game of head coach Blair Harrison’s second tenure with the team, mounted a would-be comeback drive in the closing seconds. The Cougars tossed a potential touchdown on the last play, but the ball carried too far and landed well out of bounds.
Newman and his players spoke throughout the summer of changing the image of Jordan football. Friday’s victory over the Cougars was their first taste of success, and for the playmakers up and down the roster, there’s no intention of it being one and done.
“This is the new Jordan, and we ain’t going nowhere,” senior defensive back Quinten Duke said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports