It's second round or bust for Manning High School and its new head coach, Reggie Kennedy, as they enter the 2019 football season.
The Monarchs finished 7-4 in each of the past three seasons before suffering first-round losses in the 3A state …
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The Monarchs finished 7-4 in each of the past three seasons before suffering first-round losses in the 3A state playoffs each year. Last year's loss to a Swansea team that entered the playoffs with a 2-7 record was perhaps the hardest to stomach. Manning's last playoff victory was a 45-21 defeat of Wilson in 2014.
"It's not about the playoffs right now. It's about beating Hanahan," said Manning senior strong safety/wide receiver Trent Brown of its Region 8 foe, which handed the Monarchs their only region loss. "We've lost to Hanahan all three years. We've been better than what we've played the last three years, but we just came up short each year."
In steps Kennedy, the former Sumter High head coach who previously helped lead East Clarendon High School to the 1985 1A state title as a linebacker, who is attempting to get Manning over the hump with a deep November playoff run. Kennedy spent the past five seasons at Irmo, where his teams fell in the first round of the playoffs in each of the four years in which they qualified for the postseason. Kennedy has an overall coaching record of 160-122.
"I see a lot of potential," Kennedy said of Manning. "We had close to 80-90 kids try out for JV (junior varsity) and varsity this year. There's a lot of talent there. I think we have some good pieces to the puzzle. Our job as coaches is to continue to coach them up and put them in position to be successful."
Manning beat up on its region counterparts last season, outscoring them 188-45 en route to a 4-1 record. Hanahan is the defending region champion.
The Monarchs' main question marks heading into the season are at quarterback and offensive line. Last year, the Monarchs were led by senior quarterback Jake Owens. Finding a replacement for Owens is one of Kennedy's top priorities.
However, Kennedy has already seen significant improvement from his team since the start of spring practice.
"I feel like we've come along way since the first day of spring," Kennedy said. "We've had 36 practices, and we're a totally different football team than we were 36 practices ago. The potential is there, the numbers are there, and the work ethic is there."
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