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Posted: October 25, 2011 8:01 p.m.

It's not always easy playing out the string

There’s nothing worse in sports than playing without a chance to win. In Newton’s case, the Rams are playing the rest of their games without a chance to make the playoffs. It’s for this reason I can’t get into college football. One loss and you’re school is looking forward to next year.

That didn’t seem to affect the Rams Saturday as they put it on Westlake 35-14 and looked like a team playing for more than pride. It’s a testament to Newton’s coaching staff who is in the same boat as the team. Coaches are competitors too and with nothing more than a winning record to play for, it would be easy for them to mail it in.

From what we saw Saturday though, nobody is printing shipping labels off UPS' website, especially not Javonte Williams. The senior running back, playing on senior night no less, ran for 131 yards and a career-high three touchdowns in Newton’s win. Williams’ performance had a stamp on it all right. But it wasn’t the kind you pickup at the post office.

Newton’s whole offense looked better in fact. It begs the question, why once there’s nothing on the line, do the Rams play better? They did it last year too. Once they were knocked out of the playoffs by Westlake, they pounded Langston Hughes then dropped 28 on Luella to close the season.

The answers aren’t easy to find. Talking to head coach Cortez Allen, he’s just as miffed — at least he

My best guess for Newton’s struggles this year is, it’s a combination of factors. First and foremost, the Rams play the four toughest teams in their region in consecutive weeks to open region play. That puts a premium on winning and adds pressure when you don't which leads to my second point. Newton has yet to find a quarterback that can lead the team when under pressure. — which leads to my third and final point. The talent level isn’t where it needs to be at certain positions.

While I’m not throwing Gmatreian Brown under the bus, it goes without saying the Rams have struggled at quarterback this year. The offensive line has actually played quite well in pass protection and Brown hasn’t been pressured as much as some high school quarterbacks I’ve seen (Eastside play) over the years.

Brown’s problems come from his decision making and inconsistent accuracy. It’s a problem actually shared by most high school quarterbacks. Perhaps the most difficult thing for them to learn is timing. When do I throw the ball? This is easier to answer from the sidelines as there are so many things going on during a game, it’s often unfair to judged what a quarterback sees or misses. But what I notice is most who struggle, throw the ball late. When you throw the ball late, you have negated your receiver’s advantage.

Perhaps the toughest position to play other than quarterback is cornerback. As a defensive back in pass coverage, you have to do a certain amount of gambling. Because the receiver knows what route he’s running, he has the advantage. He knows where he’s going. He knows when he’s going to cut or break off a route. He knows when he’s throwing a fake and he’s going to sprint to the post. A defensive back must react. That’s why when you see a guy as good as New York Jets defensive back Darrelle Revis, you see teams literally forgo throwing the ball to the receiver he covers. But when a quarterback doesn’t throw the ball on time, it gives the defensive back a chance to recover and get back into coverage. It puts him back in the play.

The hardest thing to find in high school is a great passing quarterback. When they do come along, they stick out like a sore thumb. The closest we’ve had in the county the past few years is Eastside’s Califf Carnes. He evolved into a very good quarterback and had great timing with Dante Blackmon. High school quarterbacks also face the predicament of a short season. It takes time to develop chemistry and you only get better with repetitions in games. When you only get one year to play, like Brown has, it makes it even tougher.

But football is a team sport perhaps more than any other. You can’t pin a team’s struggles entirely on one guy. Unfortunately the quarterback always seems to get the criticism. When they excel though, they get all the praise. It’s just the nature of the beast.

This week, Brown gets the praise on a job well done. He played very well. He threw a 20-yard touchdown on the opening drive and made key throws to his receivers throughout the game when the Rams needed him to. He has two more games to keep it going. Don’t be surprised if he does. It looks like things are finally clicking.

 

Fantasy stud of the week

This week’s fantasy player of the week is, Alcovy’s Devon Edwards. Again? No, this week’s fantasy stud is Newton’s Javonte Williams.

Williams ran for 131 yards and had 152 yards of total offense plus three touchdowns. For once in a long time the Rams were able to get the running game going. After Gmatreian Brown put them up with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Pierce on their opening drive against Westlake during Saturday’s 35-14 win, the Rams were able to go to the ground and Williams responded.

After Westlake tied the game at seven Williams broke a 14-yard run off for a touchdown. He scored his second one four minutes before halftime to give the Rams a 21-7 lead at the break. But his biggest run of the night came in the third quarter.

After Westlake scored to make it 21-14, Williams rumbled 25 yards for his third touchdown. More importantly, the touchdown gave the Rams a two-score lead and effectively sealed the win. He scored 33 fantasy points for the game. He needs 224 yards in Newton’s final two games to be the first 1,000-yard running back in recent memory.

What about Edwards you ask? Well, he had another spectacular game. He scored two touchdowns on 104 rushing yards for a solid 22 fantasy points. Not as good as Williams though. Still, I’d take him over any of my running backs this year.

was last year when the Lions knocked the Rams out of the playoffs after a lackluster performance with everything on the line.

 

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