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Upping the ante: Manning prepares for 1st big test in Wilson after blowout victory over Scott's Branch

BY TIM LEIBLE tim@theitem.com
Posted 8/28/19

The Manning High School football team made quick work of Scott's Branch in its season opener last Friday with a 62-8 win. However, the schedule instantly gets a lot tougher this Friday as it plays host to Wilson at Ramsey Stadium.

Wilson is fresh …

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Upping the ante: Manning prepares for 1st big test in Wilson after blowout victory over Scott's Branch

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The Manning High School football team made quick work of Scott's Branch in its season opener last Friday with a 62-8 win. However, the schedule instantly gets a lot tougher this Friday as it plays host to Wilson at Ramsey Stadium.

Wilson is fresh off a blowout victory of its own as it cruised past Lake City 43-6 in its season opener. The Tigers will give Manning a very different look, as Wilson likes to sling the ball around in the passing game.

The Tigers threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns against Lake City, using two different quarterbacks in the runaway victory. Their main threat at quarterback was Zayshaun Rice, who threw for 217 yards and two scores, while adding 50 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The No. 1 target in the passing game was Jakobe Quillen, who caught six passes for 153 yards and a score, but Wilson has a number of targets which Manning will have to keep its eyes on.

"They're really good at the skill positions," said Manning head coach Reggie Kennedy. "A few things that do concern me is that they've got athletes all over the field. That's one thing we've talked about all week, is trying not to get outathleted on the field. They've got kids that are capable of making plays, and you've got kids that are in position to defend them; they've got kids that can outjump you and make you miss in space. It's going to be real important for us to contain those skill guys they have."

The defensive game plan will have to look very different for Manning. Scott's Branch attempted only a handful of passes and didn't complete any of them in its run-heavy Hammer offense. Kennedy said that his team is going to try to stay within itself, and the biggest key is making sure it limits big plays.

"One of the things that we've talked about is making them earn what they get," said the Manning head coach. "We can't give up the big plays. One of the things that they did on Friday and (in) the scrimmages was that they really lived off of the big plays. If we can limit those big plays and make them earn what they get, I think it'll work in our favor."

Manning comes into the game with some confidence after the blowout win. Kennedy knows it was important to get that first win out of the way after coming in with a new coaching staff this offseason.

"That was big for us. I think it's obviously good to win the opening game of the season, especially when we have a totally new staff. We're trying to get the kids believing in what we're trying to accomplish, so it was good. It was a good win for us and the kids played real well and the kids are believing in what we're trying to do offensively and defensively."

Offensively, Manning didn't have to throw the ball very much against Scott's Branch, but look for that to change against Wilson this week.

"This week we've got to be a little bit more balanced and I think that's what we'll try to do offensively," Kennedy said. "We know we'll have to throw it a little bit more this week."

Special teams were also big for Manning against Scott's Branch, as it had a total of three touchdowns off of special teams. Kennedy loves special teams and hopes the tone it set against the Eagles carries over.

"We push special teams really heavily. I've always been a guy that loves special teams," said Kennedy. "Each week we want to generate at least 14 points off of special teams. Our kids responded really well to it. We've got them understanding that the kicking game is a third of the game and our goal each week is to win at least two of the three phases of the game."

Kennedy knows that this matchup with Wilson will be Manning's first big test of the season and he's excited to see if his team passes.

"This will certainly be a good measuring stick to see what we have. This will probably be the best team on our schedule," said Kennedy. "We see these first five ball games as a tuneup for regional (VII-3A) play, so it'll be a good measuring stick to see what we have offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. We're looking forward to the challenge."