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Cultural change creates a more organized, driven and successful Manchester

Manchester’s football team is undergoing a makeover.

Sr. Jackson McGuigan, one of the team’s top players, calls it a cultural shift.

“When I was training and lifting this summer, 30 guys showed up every time,” said McGuigan, the team’s primary recipient. “When I was younger, there were times when there were only 10 people.

Manchester is one of the oldest preparatory football programs in the state. He is also one of the most successful. From 2003 to his 2016, the Flying Dutchmen made the playoffs in 13 of his 14 seasons, winning nine straight. After that, the bottom fell out for various reasons.

Manchester went from a 9-2 Cascade Conference Championship record in 2015 to a record of 4-5 consecutive seasons in 2017 and 2018, 2-5 in 2020 and 3-6 last season. .

Head coach Ben Puck was brought in to make changes to the program. he was delivered. Now in his 3rd season, the Dutchman scored a signing win over 3-time league champions Addison, with him standing 4–1 midway through the season. They are firmly in the playoff hunt, just one game behind league leaders Napoleon, the only team to beat them this season. Even so, it was a close battle until the end.

“We were very few when I got here,” Puck said. I made it.

“When I got here, there were four boys coming back from the previous year and six juniors who had been in the JV as sophomores,” Pack said. “There are 10 guys in the program. I had to do a lot of recruiting in the hallways. I had to get the kids out to football.”

Puck is a seasoned coach. He is from Jackson and started his coaching career at Jackson High School while he was in college. He became the head coach of Parma in 1983, before heading home to Jackson. The Vikings have put together a string of excellent teams, including a 1999 group that was Jackson’s first playoff qualifier.

Puck left Jackson in 2002 to become an administrator, but continued playing football after joining the Albion College staff. He returned to high school a few seasons ago in Parma where he volunteered as his assistant at Western. After two seasons, he was appointed head coach of Manchester.

Puck is not only busy recruiting in Manchester’s corridors, but is also busy implementing a strengthening program.

“We didn’t have an organized lifting program,” he said. “There were people coming to lift me up, but nothing was organized. Now the kids are coming in and they’re working. They’re stronger and more mature. Me The kids who were in first and second grade when we came here are stronger and more mature.

One of his players in his first year was freshman quarterback Kanon Duffing, who had one start.

“He competed,” said Puck. “He was definitely a half pint, but he played and did a great job. I learned from.”

Duffing completed 60% of his passes last year for 1,273 yards and nine touchdowns. This season he is even better. In five games, Duffing completed 57 of 82 passes for 69.5% for his 821 yards and his nine touchdowns. His interceptions have dropped from his eight last year to his two this fall.

“We don’t throw deep,” Puck said. “But whatever we throw at him, he’s very precise. He gets the job done. He’s the unsung hero for us. He’s the catalyst. He’s the key to everything.”

Wide receiver Andrew Campbell, running backs Wyatt Carson and McGuigan are benefactors of Duffing’s accuracy.

“He’s very good,” said McGuigan. “I know he puts the ball right there. It’s not just about delivering.”

McGuigan himself is a former quarterback. He made the shift to receiver early in his Manchester career and loves the move. He is currently a college prospect at 6 foot 2, 170 pounds.He is an athlete in his three sports with his GPA of 4.0.

Puck said McGuigan has great technique in how he runs the route.

Successful teams have one or two players that other kids rely on,” Puck said. “Jackson is a role model for accepting that responsibility and dealing with the pressure.”

McGuigan caught 37 passes in five games for 554 yards and seven touchdowns. The biggest came with time running out against Addison when Flying helped his Dutchmen overcome his two-point deficit to beat the Panthers. The Flying Dutchmen defense also went big in that game when they put together a goal line stand in the final minute to keep Addison out of the end zone.

“To be honest, it’s the type of game we haven’t won in the last few years,” McGuigan said. “To beat them shows everyone is on board. It shows how we’ve changed the culture here.”

Two weeks ago, Manchester bounced back from Napoleon’s defeat with a win over East Jackson. McGuigan had one of his greatest games with eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

East Jackson coach Joe Niehaus said McGuigan is one of the most complete receivers he’s coached.

“He runs great routes and catches virtually everything thrown at him,” Niehaus said. “On top of that, he’s a threat that keeps his distance after every catch.”

Manchester has conference games left against the Michigan Center, Hanover-Houghton and Grass Lake. The Dutch are sitting well as they are a top 10 team in Division 7 playoff points and trying to make a comeback to the postseason.

“Ever since Coach Pack came out here, it’s been drilling us down into trusting the process,” says McGuigan. “We are still a long way from what we can do as a team.”

Doug Donnelly has been a sports and news reporter and city editor for over 25 years, 1992-1995 Daily Chief Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, 1995-2012 Monroe Evening News, 2013 writes for the Adrian Daily Telegram. He has also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiled record books for various schools in Southeast Michigan. Send an email to with story ideas Jackson County, Washtenaw County, Hillsdale County, Lennawee County, Monroe County.

Photo Manchester receiver Jackson McGuigan has possession of the ball and an Addison defender puts him out of bounds. (Photo Credit: Manchester Football Program, Mark Ball)