Just ask New Manchester football coach Rob Cleveland, who heads into the Jaguars’ 2012 spring practice with a completely different agenda than he did a year ago.
“Last spring we were just trying to find kids to come out to play and get them interested,” laughed the New Manchester coach.
He also labeled attempting to bus kids to the then-unopened school, rounding up jerseys and helmets for each athlete, and fundraising as obstacles he faced during a hectic spring 2011.
“But the recruiting part of it all is behind us now and this spring we are really focusing on developing our players, becoming a better team and building off what we did a year ago.”
What they did a year ago was impress in their first year on the gridiron — going a combined 14-2 with their freshman and JV/Varsity teams.
The JV/Varsity team itself went 8-1 and beat two full varsity programs (North Springs and Cross Keys).
Cleveland called 2011 a great start towards building a successful program, but was also quick to point out that his team has a long way to go if they want to contend on the varsity level.
“That record can be deceiving because we were playing other JV’s and bad varsity teams. We’re heading in the right direction though and the next step is finding out who the best 22 football players at New Manchester are this spring.”
Cleveland will look for the best 22 to fit in the Wing-T offense and 3-3-5 defense that the Jags flourished in during their inaugural campaign, while also doing as much as possible to expand both playbooks over the two week practice period.
“Once we perfect the things we put in last year we will start adding to it. On offense in particular we want to put in some shotgun stuff like Tucker [High School] runs. Other than that it’s all about blocking and tackling and that’s where we will have to get better to compete on the varsity level,” said the New Manchester coach.
New Manchester will compete against a full varsity region schedule next fall in the newly realigned 5AAAAA. Their competition will include county rival Lithia Springs and Villa Rica, Paulding County, South Paulding, Hiram, North Paulding, East Paulding, Allatoona, Woodland and Rome.
“You have three or four powerhouses in there that will be a mountain to climb, but there are also some teams I think we will compete with immediately,” Cleveland said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that if things keep bouncing our way that we can have a good season.”