The Manning High School varsity football team had last Friday night off, and the break was just what the doctor ordered.
The Monarchs suffered their first loss of the season on Sep. 29, falling 34-28 on the road at Hanahan. Manning head coach Keith West, in his second year at the helm, didn't point to injuries as a contributing factor in the loss.
"We were a little banged up going into the Hanahan game, but that's not an excuse," West said. "We had our chances to win the game, but the two weeks off since then have allowed us to heal up and get healthier for this coming game.
"Everybody that was hurt did play, they just weren't 100 percent," he said. "It's not like the guys that were hurt didn't play, it's just that we had two or three guys playing at 85 percent, and now they're back to 100 percent."
Manning will need all hands on deck against Region VII-3A leader Timberland, which comes to Ramsey Stadium on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. showdown that will give one of the two teams an inside track to the region title. Timberland is 4-3 overall, but 2-0 in the five-team region. Manning will need to win all of its three remaining games to have a shot at the region title through tiebreakers.
West said his team is relishing the opportunity.
"Our kids are in good spirits. We needed Hanahan to lose last week to open it back up for everybody to have a chance at the region," West said. "If Hanahan had won out, we'd have no chance to win the region championship. Now we have to do our part to win our share of the games the rest of the way, and I think we've got a good chance if we do our part. That gave our kids new life, to know that the door is back open for us to win a region title."
Timberland also controls its own destiny, as the team that handed Hanahan a 20-7 loss last week and sits atop the region standings.
"If we win out, we feel like we'll have the tiebreakers going to our advantage," West said. "We feel like our destiny is in our hands now that Hanahan has lost a game."
The Wolves are led by their defense, surrendering only a little over 10 points per game, but Timberland is no offensive juggernaut, averaging only 17 points per game, an average boosted significantly by last week's 54-0 victory over Lake Marion. Manning, by contrast, is putting up nearly 30 points per game enroute to a 6-1 record.
Still, they'll play the game on the field, and West said he expects another barn-burner similar to last year's meeting in St. Stephen.
"We're expecting nothing but a hard-fought game this week," West said. "Last year, we lost to them by one point at their place on the last play of the game - they blocked our extra point on the last play of the game - and this year we're expecting nothing less.
"They're a proud program. They have a lot of tradition and we know it's going to be a battle. Timberland is a program that wins a lot of games every year, and they win region championships every year. They're a traditional powerhouse program, and they've won a lot of state championships."