The Manchester Blue Devils defeated Twiggs County 39-18 in the second round of the GHSA Class A playoffs Friday night in Manchester.
It was the Blue Devils’ first playoff game of the season as they earned a first-round bye with their No. 8 seed.
The Blue Devils asserted themselves on offense in the first half, outgaining the Cobras in yardage 228 to 69. Manchester’s receiving yards in the first half — 80 — was more than Twiggs County’s total yardage as well.
The vaunted wing-T offense racked up 341 total yards of rushing on their way to the victory over the Cobras.
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“It helps to have the players,” said Manchester head coach Evan Hochstetler. “You’ve got to have the players to run the system. We believe in the system, and our players believe in the system, so they understand what they have to do to make the offense run. It’s not just one man, it’s three running backs, the quarterback, the receivers, then the line of scrimmage; they’re all doing their part to make the offense go. They’re getting better each week.”
Senior running back Tra Gamble led the way on offense with 119 yards rushing. He got stronger as the game went on. Gamble picked up 43 yards rushing with a touchdown in the first half, then another 76 yards in the second half. He had two long touchdown runs in the second half of 33 and 42 yards.
“Gamble was big time for us,” said Hochstetler. “He does all the right things in the classroom, in the community. He works hard. He’s a powerful back, but at times, he shows his speed, and he did that tonight. Once he got to the sidelines, he was gone.”
After outscoring the Cobras 19-0 in the first half, however, the Blue Devils only managed one more point than Twiggs County — 19-18 — in the second half. Hochstetler says conditioning may be a factor as they had a bye week prior to Friday night’s game.
“We’re out of game shape,” Hochstetler said. “I thought from games one to six, we got better each week and were playing four-quarter games. We went through a four-game stretch where we weren’t playing four quarters, we were barely playing two and a half quarters. I thought tonight was good seeing that they know we’re not in four-quarter shape even though we should be at this time of year. The way our schedule fell, we had two open weeks in the last four weeks. Not only did our kids compete for 48 minutes tonight, but they got in better shape tonight.”
Manchester will face Macon County , a winner over Turner County on Friday. Macon County handed Manchester its only loss of the season, a 55-13 defeat on Nov. 4. The Blue Devils will practice through the holiday week to prepare for their next opponent.
“Any time you practice Thanksgiving week, it’s a special football season,” Hochstetler said. “The coaches’ wives have to understand that as football coaches, we want to be on the field Thanksgiving morning. When we’re practicing Thanksgiving week, that’s the sign of a good football team.”
Friday at Manchester
M – Tra Gamble 3 run (kick failed), 8:38.
M – Garrett Brown 1 run (pass failed), 8:20.
M – Kelvin Turner 7 run (Jaquavious Stargell kick), 4:18.
M – Ashton Bell 10 run (kick failed), 7:26.
T – Ja’mon Height 7 run (kick failed), 4:35.
M – Gamble 33 run (Stargell kick), 2:24.
T – Tyrese Blackshear 22 pass from Calvin Stephens (kick failed), 1:06.
M – Gamble 42 run (Stargell kick), 11:04.
T – Ty Dupree 52 pass from Stephens (end of game), 0:00.
Records: Twiggs County 8-4, Manchester 10-1. Next: Twiggs County, end of season; Manchester, vs. Macon County-Turner County winner in GHSA Class A quarterfinals, Friday.