MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WWBT) - 2018 was an historic year for Manchester football. The Lancers finished the season 15-0 and capped it off with the program’s first ever state championship.
With 18 starters gone from that team, Tom Hall and company turn the page.
“We started things up January 7 just like every other high school did in the state,” the Manchester head coach said. “We told them this team, this 2019 team, hasn’t proven anything.”
One of those 18 starters who has since departed the halls of Manchester is quarterback Brendon Clark. He’s now a freshman at Notre Dame. Hall, however, says that the Lancers may not be as down as one might think. 36 players return who saw significant time during the 2018 season, as well as a new crop of J.V. players who haven’t lost in several years. This all makes the target on the backs of the state champs a welcome one.
“We love it,” said senior lineman Andre Crawley. “It’s the best feeling to have, because we just want to show that we are able to have that on our back and still play our game, and not focus on what anyone else [has] to say.”
“We had a four year starter at quarterback who’s now at Notre Dame,” added Hall. “Those don’t grow on trees. We’re going to be a little different, but we’re going to play Manchester football. We’re going to be uptempo on both sides of the ball, hopefully we’re going to be physical.”
Hall added that there is no determined successor for Clark, as three quarterbacks are entering camp in the hunt for the starting job.
It’s also a change in landscape for Manchester as the Lancers shoot for a repeat state crown. Last year they hoisted the title in Class 6, but 2019 will see them compete in Class 5, where Highland Springs has won state championships in each of the last four seasons, L.C. Bird the three years prior.
“We’ve moved from a Big Ten division to basically the SEC of high school football. The last seven state champions have come out of the Richmond-area Division 5 and we play them.”
Manchester’s 2019 schedule includes both the Springers and the Skyhawks, as well as Varina and their annual Dominion District slate.
December is a long way off, and a lot of things have to fall right to get there, but in order to put the Lancers in position, coaches and players understand that it comes down to doing the little things in August, just like they always have.
“Our goal is just to go 1-0, to win every down, win every play," Crawley said.
“We simply ask our kids to pick one thing, one facet of their game, to work on that day and get one percent better. We have a sign up that says ‘be 1-0.’ 1-0 is the goal, and that’s daily.”
Manchester kicks off its season on Thursday, August 29, at Varina.
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