Today we check in with one of the state’s hottest young coaches, Evan Hochstetler of Manchester, and take a look at the updated Georgia High Schools Association/MaxPreps Class A Power Ratings for this week.
Evan Hochstetler, Manchester
Apparently, Evan Hochstetler does not feel pressure.
Even though his father, Dwight Hochstetler, is No. 5 on Georgia’s all-time win list (345-114-1), Evan dove headlong into the coaching profession and eventually worked as his father’s offensive coordinator at Bowdon from 2012 to 2014, before taking the job at Manchester.
Then in his first meeting with Blue Devil parents – a proud community that has not seen a state title since 1997 and a region title since 2001 – Hochstetler proclaimed that he and his staff would reverse the previous year’s record of 3-7. They didn’t. They went 8-4 instead, winning a playoff game for the first time since 2012.
Now in Year Two, Hochstetler has Manchester rolling at 7-0, No. 4 in both the public school power ratings and the Atlanta Journal Constitution/Georgia High School Football Daily Class A public Top 10, and in position to compete for a region and perhaps a state championship. And the Blue Devils are doing it in impressive fashion. Their classical wing-T offense is averaging 42 points per game while the no-frills 4-4 defense has yielded just 37 point total all season.
Hochstetler, 35,said there has been nothing fancy about Manchester’s success. Hard work and talent on the part of the players and quality coaching have turned the trick. Hochstetler’s staff includes his father as his offensive line coach, defensive coordinator Joseph Turner, who was defensive coordinator for the elder Hochstetler at Bowdon, and secondary coach Jason Dothard, who coached for several years at Carrollton.
On the field, the Blue Devils have several players going both ways including two-way linemen J.T. Walker (5-11, 270) and Raeshawn Walton (6-3, 275), who are joined upfront by Que Mahone (6-4, 275) and Darius Jackson (5-11, 270). The skill players are led by QB Garrett Brown (6-7, 190), one of the state’s top pitchers who has committed to play baseball at UGA. Brown spends most of his time handing off to one of the Gamble brothers – senior Tre, a tough, steady runner, or sophomore Deenizeo a speedy and explosive game breaker. Kevin Turner and Aston Bell get their fair share of work as well. Defensively, Manchester is paced by LB/TE Jon Ferguson (6-2, 210) and LB/OL Danny Marshall (6-2, 205), along with corners Tre McGruder and Kalil Brawner.
While seven or eight seniors are starters or contributors, 19 juniors start or see significant playing time as well, which means the future is bright for the Blue Devils. But the way they are playing, the future might be right now.
How was it, growing up as the son of one of the state’s most successful head coaches? (Dwight Hochstetler coached for 37 years – 1978 to 1988 at Greenville, where he won 111 games and two state titles, and 1989 to 2014 at Bowdon, where he won 234 games and a state title.)
“I pretty much grew up on ball fields, first at Greenville and then in Bowdon. I was always around good coaches, but my dad made sure he surrounded himself with coaches who were good people as well, and I think that made me better growing up around that. It’s something I’ve tried to do as well as a coach.”
How is it having your dad on your staff?
“It’s great having someone with so much knowledge on your staff, of course, but it’s even better getting to spend time with him.”
You’ve spent almost your whole life and career in west Georgia. Do you think the area gets overlooked when it comes to the quality of its football?
“I think so. When you think of west Georgia football of course you think of Carrollton as one of the premiere programs in the state, but you also have programs like Bowdon, Bremen and even Central-Carroll has had some good runs, even recently. And you look at Mt. Zion-Carroll (currently No. 6 in the public poll at 6-0), where coach [Keith]
Holloway is doing a tremendous job with that program. And then of course you have LaGrange, Callaway and Troup County, and we’re very proud of the history of our program here at Manchester and what we’re trying to do.
“But I’ll say this also, I know there’s good football in Gwinnett County and metro Atlanta, and down in south Georgia, but I think the backbone of Georgia high school football is in the small towns and small communities like Manchester and Bowdon. There’s nothing more special than a big football game on Friday night in those places. The atmosphere can’t be beat.”
Your first game as a head coach was a 33-7 loss to Charlton County. How did you get the team to keep buying in and finish 8-4?
“It’s tough when your first game is against a guy like [head coach] Rich McWhorter and Charlton County. But we took that butt whoopin’, brought the kids in and showed them what they did right and what they needed to improve. We told them we weren’t going to change anything. We were going to keep working hard, and going at it until we got it right, and I think they respected that. As coaches we tell them to win the day. Get better every day on the field and in class. You have to win Monday through Thursday if you’re going to win on Friday. I think they respected the consistency and the discipline we were instilling in the program and we just took off from there.”
After competing in Class AA last season, what do you think of the power rating and the public-private split in Class A?
“The power rating makes it hard for you to kind of take a peek ahead in the post season. [In the other classifications] The regions and the brackets are set, so you can kind of see if we finish here in our region we’ll probably match up against this team or that team. But here with the power ratings it’s hard to do that because you don’t know who you’re going to play until all the ratings are in. But that makes you focus on winning every game. Also, I think any time you split the public and private schools it’s a good thing, especially for some of the small public schools in the these small towns.”
What will it take to bring a state title back to Manchester?
“The great [former Lincoln County head coach] Larry Campbell said it best: you have to have a good bracket, a good team, some luck and no injuries. That’s so true. You have to have a friendly bracket, you have to have talent, you have to be as healthy as possible, especially in a small school where you don’t have the numbers, and you have to have some luck. The ball has to bounce your way a couple of times.”
Prince Avenue, Twiggs on top of new power ratings
Prince Avenue Christian (7-0, 6-0 in Region 8) jumped over former No. 1 Landmark Christian (7-0, 4-0 in Region 5) to assume the top spot in the private school power ratings this week. Both teams played struggling foes, but PAC’s victim (Lakeview Academy) is 1-5, while Landmark defeated a winless Fulton Leadership Academy squad, 54-6. On the public side, Twiggs County (5-1, 2-0 in Region 7-Division A) held on to the top spot with an impressive 21-0 shutout of Stratford Academy (4-2, 1-1), which had been in the AJC-GHSFD private school top 10.
Class A Private
Class A Public