Mangham, who ended the season with 15 catches for 403 yards and 4 touchdowns in seven games, was rewarded richly this week as he was named to CBS Max Preps Freshman All-American Team. No one could have known the heights the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder would have reached when the season started, especially early on. Through the first four games of the season not a single ball was thrown his way. Not a single catch was made as Griffin struggled to find itself on offense.
“We had given all the older guys first chance — but they weren’t producing,” said first-year Bears offensive coordinator Justin Rogers.
That set the table for what happened next. Trailing 17-0 late in the third quarter of the fifth game of the season at Alcovy in the subregion opener, Griffin found itself facing a 4th-and-14 from the Alcovy 23.
“As a coaching staff we were sitting up there and we had no clue what to do next, no answers,” said Rogers. “We said, ‘Let’s just throw it up and see what happens.’”
That’s exactly what back-up freshman quarterback Anforne Stroud did.
Mangham did the rest.
“He made a play and the rest of it all happened from that point on,” Rogers said of the 23-yard touchdown reception.
Though Griffin’s comeback bid ended short, 17-16, that night, Rogers and his staff knew a piece to the puzzle had been found that night.
The next week, when starting sophomore quarterback Jaquez Parks returned from an injury he had suffered in the first half of the season opener, Mangham had a reception for 23 yards as Griffin won 30-6 to post the first of six consecutive wins. The week after, Mangham and Parks connected on a 61-yard touchdown pass as Mangham caught two passes for 93 yards in a 42-14 win at Union Grove.
“I gained confidence in him and Jaquez gained confidence in him and started looking for him,” Rogers said of the duo.
No place did it show more than in a Region 3-AAAA play-in game for the right to go to state. Mangham wowed the crowd with touchdown receptions of 74 and 6 yards in a 23-22 win at Whitewater. Then, in a 46-0 second-round state playoff loss to then Class AAAA No. 1 state-ranked and eventual state champion Tucker, Mangham led his team amassing the most yards from scrimmage on the night with five receptions for 60 yards.
“He was a bright light in the middle of the year when we needed it most,” said Rogers. “We knew he was going to be special or good just watching the practice films.”
However, perhaps more impressive is what Mangham has does for those around him — namely, make them better.
“I believe he’s as good as I’ve ever seen with going up and picking it out of the air at that age,” said Rogers. “The other guys picked up on that and started getting better in practice and then making plays in the game.”
In that respect, Mangham was the ice breaker for this up-and-coming team that was comprised mainly of freshmen and sophomores this past season.
Rogers knows Mangham will be an integral part of anything the team does on offense from here on out the next three years.
“He has a chance to make a name for himself, especially in this offense,” he said.
Mangham follows a class where Griffin High receiver Nile Daniel signed with Kentucky. Also boding well for Mangham is the fact the position coach who worked with Daniel and Kearney is former Griffin High and Southern standout Carl Kearney, who later plied his trade with the New York Jets.
(John Sullivan is the sports editor at the Griffin Daily News.)