The names are different, but for one night at Barron Stadium, the outcome remained the same.
Hosting Class 6A New Manchester in front of a football-hungry home crowd, the Rome High Wolves shook off some early jitters and got down to business with some fresh faces occupying starting roles.
Rome ended the night with five touchdowns while completely shutting out the visiting Jaguars from reaching the end zone. The scrimmage unofficially marked the end of the preseason as the Wolves now prepare to take on nationally-ranked Marietta on Thursday night in the Corky Kell Classic.
Rome head coach John Reid was asked about the showdown, which will be part of the opening night of the annual kickoff series for the second year in a row.
“These kids have a lot of big games ahead of them. And one thing this gives them is the opportunity to go to practice, get their helmets on and go, ‘look, we’re pretty good, but we can do better.’ That’s what it’s all about. We got a lot of kids in the game,” Reid said.
“They know what they’re up against. Not a lot of these kids have maybe been in that type of game, but they’ve been in the type of practice to prepare for this type of game. They’ve heard it all and I think they’ve just got to focus on the task at hand.”
New starting quarterback Caleb Ellard was 7 of 9 for 89 yards and two touchdowns as he played through the first three quarters of the scrimmage. The junior placed the ball well and had plenty of help from his offensive line to give him time to throw.
With Jamious Griffin now running on The Flats at Georgia Tech, a lot of Friday night was working in plenty of kids at the running back position. Trey Lawrence got the most work and finished with 54 yards on 13 carries, while fellow senior Ahijah Blackwell ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on just five carries.
Reid said plenty went into each one’s performance, from the defense New Manchester was showing to the atmosphere.
“I think that everybody who touches the football in this offense is new. So when you get out here and have the kind of crowd that we have at a scrimmage game, that’s what’s good about it,” Reid said. “That’s a lot of pressure on a kid. For a lot of them, it’s their first chance to be a Rome Wolf when it really matters and carry the football when it counts. It’s a lot. I thought it was good.”
New Manchester’s most successful drive was its first one as it started on its own 20-yard line with quarterback Caleb Lowery helping steer the Jaguars down to the Rome 11. Lowery kept the ball on fourth-and-1 and ran right into a host of the Wolves’ defensive linemen, who pushed him back two yards to turn the ball over on downs.
After getting four first downs in the opening salvo, New Manchester would get just two more through third quarter. Rome got the ball on downs to end the Jaguars’ next possession, and the visitors would not find success at the end of any drive.
“For a scrimmage like this, you’ve got no film and some basic word of mouth of what they may be lined up in. So I think that was a factor. Everybody knows pretty much what we’re all about. So I think it was a good thing for the kids to see that. They have some good players and they’re pretty well coached,” Reid said.
Rome’s season opener against Marietta is scheduled to start at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Thursday at Barron Stadium, following the game between Calhoun and Ridgeland at 5:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Barron Stadium box office from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. They are $12 in advance and $17 at the gate the day of the game.
Each ticket covers admission to both contests.