MANCHESTER, Ga. — Manchester’s performance against a gritty Jordan team on Thursday wasn’t perfect, but it was enough.
With a playoff berth on the line, the Blue Devils hung on for a 30-19 win over the Red Jackets at home. The win sends them to their second consecutive postseason and their fourth in five years.
“It’s good, that’s the standard here,” Manchester coach Tanner Glisson said after the game. “Seven wins isn’t where we want to be yet, but we’ll take it. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be.”
That seventh win wasn’t going to come easy, however.
After taking a 22-13 lead into halftime, the Blue Devils faced a stiff test from Jordan, which was playing in its final game of the season and trying to end a season of improvement on a high note.
The Red Jackets needed only four plays on its first drive in the second half to score a touchdown. Quarterback Willie Harris ran 40 yards on a keeper to start the half, then hit running back Tim Griggs for a 21-yard pass. Two plays later, freshman Romello Kimbrough went 19 yards for the score to cut the Manchester lead to 22-19.
Jordan’s defense forced a turnover on downs four plays into Manchester’s next drive, and the offense proceeded to cut through the Blue Devils defense.
Helped along by a roughing the passer penalty, Jordan got the ball into the red zone, but an interception flipped the field and allowed Manchester to take a two-possession lead.
Blue Devils quarterback Quin Prather hit wide receiver Tae Ferguson on a short fourth-and-11 pass, and Ferguson did the rest of the work. He split about four defenders, two at a time, and jogged into the end zone for a 30-19 lead the team never relinquished.
“They were putting some pressure on us, that’s for sure,” Glisson said. “They were getting us out into space where it’s tough to make tackles. We had to make some adjustments.”
Jordan kept fighting, picking up a bunch of yards in the second half, but was never able to cut into the Manchester lead. In the end, Harris finished 18 of 32 for 176 yards passing and carried 11 times for 67 yards. Griggs scored both of Jordan’s first-half touchdowns, a 4-yarder to tie the game at 7-7 and an 11-yarder to make it 22-13.
The loss ended a season in which the Red Jackets ended a 26-game losing streak, won two games and contended a couple others. It isn’t the kind of success coach Jim Brown wants, but it is a major step in the right direction.
“It was a success,” Brown said of the season. “We don’t have a whole lot of numbers, and we suffered a couple of injuries that hurt us. Those injuries hurt more when you don’t have a ton of players. But the guys fought hard all year, and we’ve certainly got the ship going in the right direction.”
The Red Jackets lose only eight seniors off the team, and Brown is hoping he can start to build in participation.
“We need to get more players in here,” he said.
Manchester was led in the win by running back Anthony Bell, who had 113 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. His first touchdown went for 21 yards to open the scoring, his second for 43 yards to put Manchester ahead 22-7. Tavors Almon added a 1-yard score in the first.
Now, the Blue Devils await the Spencer-Kendrick game on Friday to find out where they will be seeded in the playoffs. A Spencer win would make it the No. 3 seed out of Region 5-AA, while a Kendrick win would drop it to No. 4 and send it to a first-round matchup against Calhoun, which has played in six consecutive state title games.
Thursday at Manchester
Jordan 7 6 6 0—19
Manchester 14 8 8—30
M—Anthony Bell 21 run (Darius Alford kick); 8:18
J—Tim Griggs 4 run (Javante West kick); 5:41
M—Tavoris Almon 1 run (Alford kick); 1:05
M—Bell 43 run (Bell run); 10:25
J—Griggs 11 run (Run failed); 6:42
J—Romello Kimbrough 19 run (Run failed); 10:47
M—Tae Ferguson 26 pass from Quin Prather (Bell run); 1:31
Records: Jordan, 2-8, 2-6; Manchester, 7-3, 5-3. Next: Jordan, season over; Manchester, Nov. 15 vs. TBD (on the road).