Robbie Briggs in his 12th year as the head football coach at Manning High School and served as an assistant coach seven years prior to that. He thinks the skill players Darlington will bring to Ramsey Stadium on Friday for the Monarchs' homecoming game will be the best he's seen.
"Their quarterbacks and receivers are as good as anybody we've played against since I've been here," Briggs said. "And that's saying a lot."
It will be a matchup of a Falcons high-powered offense against the Monarchs' stingy defense beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Darlington is averaging over 30 points a contest in its 3-3 start while 5-1 Manning has allowed just 64 points all season, 41 in the last five games.
Quarterback Darvia Dubose is the catalyst for the Falcons offense. He has only completed 51 of 129 passes, but they have gone for 935 yards and nine touchdowns against five interceptions. Dubose has rushed for 547 yards and six TDs on 62 carries. He was averaging over 100 yards rushing a game before being held to 43 yards in last week's 39-38 overtime loss to Crestwood.
"What's so impressive about the quarterback is that he is averaging over 100 yards (now 91.2) and they have no set running plays for him," Briggs said. "That shows you his ability."
Dubose's favorite target is Treyvon Thomas, the team's "possession" receiver. Thomas has 22 catches for 345 yards -- a 15.7 yards-per-catch average -- and five scores. Tray Jett has 11 catches for 246 yards (22.4) and two scores, while Ty James has four catches for 148 yards (37.0) and two TDs.
"We can play good defense for all but five plays, and that's 35 points," Briggs said in describing Darlington's big play potential.
Briggs said Manning's defensive unit is going to have to play a smart game.
"We've always been a pressure defense, and that's not going to change," he said. "We've just got to be disciplined. We've got to understand what their strengths are and adjust accordingly. This is one of our better defenses, if not the best, since I've been here, and that's saying something."
Briggs pointed out how close Darlington is to being 6-0. Along with the loss to Crestwood, the Falcons lost to West Florence 20-19 and to Wilson 29-24.
The Monarchs have been no slouches on offense either. They are coming off a 67-7 victory over Lakewood in their Region VI-3A opener, picking up 504 yards of total offense, 461 on the ground. Quarterback Jason Baxter rushed for 140 yards to lead Manning last week, just one of many backs Briggs can turn to for consistent production.
"We have a plethora of backs who could have a 100-yard night," Briggs said. "That's a good thing. We've got a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things. We don't know who's gong to be hot from game to game."
Some of the running back choices are Raquan Bennett, John Maddox and Rochar Witherspoon.