Such is the case at New Manchester, Douglas County’s newest high school, as it plays through the growing pains during its inaugural season. While these kids don’t have the bank accounts of professional athletes, they share similar experiences of a new team playing against established programs.
In high school, most first-year programs play a non-region schedule versus a variety of schools to gauge where things stand before aligning with a league long term. However, New Manchester has gone the non-traditional route and participates in the highly-competitive Region 5-AAAA, playing schools that habitually find themselves in the state tournament of their respective sport.
“We’ve grown a lot as a team. The girls all come from different schools, and it’s been a growing experience for everybody,” said head coach Josh Martin. “We’ve had an extremely tough schedule the first part of the season. We look at schools that have been successful playing a non-region schedule in their first year. We felt like taking a little bit of a beating the first year will help us in the long run as far as getting experience. With the young girls playing a region schedule, they’ll get to see what they’ll be looking at over the next four years.”
Currently, the Lady Jaguars stand at 3-8 and 1-3 in Region 5-AAAA. History is made with every dribble, and the signature event for the program occurred on Dec. 3 when the team posted their first victory after defeating Hapeville Charter, 48-23. New Manchester would take two of its next three ballgames, including consecutive wins versus Alexander and Trion.
“I was really excited for the girls when we got our first win,” said Martin. “I was really proud of them and to see them excited about winning. It’s something to build on for the second half of the season. As a coach, I’m more excited for them than for myself. This year isn’t as much about winning and losing as it is about setting the foundation and building the program.”
However, during its last outings, New Manchester went winless in the Carrollton-Central Christmas Tournament, falling to Carrollton and county foe Lithia Springs.
Currently, the Lady Jags are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and hope to snap this slide when they play at East Paulding in Dallas today. New Manchester next travels to South Paulding, Friday, Jan. 6 before returning home to face McIntosh, Jan. 7. Tip-off for each game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
New Manchester’s roster features a potpourri of players from all over the area. The team showcases only two seniors, Shyanne Banks, a transfer from Douglas County, and Brianna Jenkins, a transfer from Chapel Hill. The rest of the cast are underclassman.
Just like the girls, the boys’ team shares a similar story in dealing with the adversity of playing as a first-year program. The Jaguars’ overall mark is 4-7, but they are winless in the region at 0-4.
Their historic inaugural win occurred on opening night with a 65-61 double overtime victory versus McIntosh on Nov. 12.
New Manchester later lost six-of-seven, including four in a row in mid December. However, the Jags bounced back strong with two straight wins and hope to carry this momentum into the regional portion of the schedule.
The Jags have many steps to climb up the towering ladder of the Region 5-AAAA standings, and it all begins with their duel at East Paulding, Jan. 3.
Clamping down on defense will be a main focal point for New Manchester moving forward this month. The opposition has scored over 80 points three times, led by Douglas County’s 103-63 rout on Nov. 29. The Jags are giving up 65.9 points per game and rank eighth in Region 5-AAAA in defensive scoring.