School: Manchester High
Nickname: Blue Devils
2013 record: 7-4
Key players: Jabril Flemister, Tra Gamble, Anthony Bell, Demarcus Addie, Nakevious Henly, Adrian Render, Omari Williams
Key game: at Bowdon, Oct. 3
Outlook: It’s an interesting situation for Manchester, which is in its second season under coach Tanner Glisson.
The team is a perennial playoff contender — indeed, it went 7-4 and played a first-round playoff game against Calhoun in 2013 — but it is also in the second year of a building process that, in many ways, resembles a team that hasn’t had that kind of success.
Upon taking charge of the program, Glisson said he implemented a one-year, three-year and five-year plan, changing aspects of the way the program was run in hopes of making it more cohesive with his style and also to jump start it to the next level.
After a season, Glisson said the team is on schedule. He has players who have bought in to his program and are ready to improve.
“When I came in, I was taking over for a legendary coach (Greg Oglesby),” Glisson said. “He had just gone 9-3 and here I am, coming in and saying I want to do things a different way. But they’ve been winning a long time, so I had to convince them that my way could help us get better too. Year 1 was about setting a standard and implementing a standard, but we feel like we’ve got a core group of guys who have bought in and realize there are some non-negotiables there.”
Now, the Blue Devils are in Year 2, and there’s a strong foundation to build upon.
The team returns 13 starters, six on offense and seven on defense. With the exception of sophomore Tra Gamble and freshman Connor Will, the entire offense is made up of juniors and seniors, many of whom made significant impacts a year ago.
Junior Demarcus Addie recorded over 1,000 yards receiving. He’s a two-way player, who also notched six interceptions, 43 tackles and 12 pass breakups at strong safety.
With the graduation of quarterback Quin Prather, Manchester will break in a new signal-caller under center. That appears to be Jabril Flemister, a 6-foot senior who made an impact on defense a year ago.
The offensive line lacks the size that some programs prefer, sporting just one player over 230 pounds, but also should be quick in a spread offense that likes to push the pace.
Arguably the team’s best player, Anthony Bell is expected to make an impact on both sides of the ball again in 2014. As a sophomore in 2013, Bell rushed for 1,406 yards, received 400 yards and recorded 93 tackles and three interceptions.
This year, Manchester is hoping to start fast with a scrimmage against Harris County on Aug. 15 and a season-opener against Class A-public state runner-up Charlton County on Aug. 30.
It will need the help to try and catch defending region champ Heard County. Perhaps a bigger region game, though — if it can be assumed that Heard County will be back at full force — will be the region opener against Bowdon. Heard County should be considered the favorites in the region with Manchester and Bowdon trailing. Despite the fact the game is played in the first week of October, it could end up being the difference between a home and road playoff game for the Blue Devils.