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The Manning High School football team heads to North Charleston on Friday to open Region VII-3A play against Academic Magnet, a team the Monarchs beat 58-0 last season.
The Monarchs enter the game 1-3 on the season. They are winless since starting quarterback Corey Graham went down with an injury against Wilson in their second game.
"We pretty much told our guys, it's the start of a new season," said Manning head coach Reggie Kennedy. "We went into our non-region schedule and told our guys we basically had five tune-ups ahead of region play."
Changes are coming, however, as Kennedy announced that the Monarchs will start their junior varsity quarterback, Justin Daniels, on Friday and move starting tailback Caleb Wright -- who had been filling in at quarterback since Graham was injured -- back to his original position.
"Justin is a ninth-grader, and he's been able to get a few JV games under his belt," said Kennedy. "We just felt he's ready to move up now. I feel a lot better going into Friday's game with the changes we made on offense."
Academic Magnet comes in at 1-2, their only victory a 14-12 nail biter against Charleston Math & Science, one of the weaker teams in the state. The Raptors were outscored 101-0 in their two losses.
"It's the start of a new season for them too, and it's region play, and homecoming for them," said Kennedy. "So we're going to get their best shot on Friday, and we gotta go out there and play well and not take anything for granted."
On paper, at least, it appears Manning could use Friday as a game to straighten out some of the issues that have hindered them over the past three weeks.
At the very least, their bye week afforded the Monarchs the ability to spend extra time looking for ways to exploit the Academic Magnet defense.
"They run a lot of motion out of the backfield," said Kennedy. "We have to do a good job of adjusting on the back end. We made a few personnel changes on the defensive side of the football. We'll just wait and see how that works out."
Overall, Kennedy has been pleased with his defense so far this year, but knows the Raptors are likely to attack through the air, which means his secondary will need to be ready to make the pivotal third down stops they struggled to make in losses to Lakewood and Lake City.
"They're a spread team, so they'll probably try to pass against us a little more, just because of the size difference," said Kennedy. "I feel like our defense is playing well, we just need to get off the field on third downs. Hopefully we'll see that happen this coming Friday, and in the weeks to come."
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