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Posted: September 19, 2013 4:34 p.m.

Rams eager to prove they belong

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The Newton Rams' defense will have a tough time containing the Valdosta Wildcats Friday night on the road.

The Newton Rams have an opportunity to knock off their second consecutive top-10 opponent tonight, but this time, the Rams won't be sneaking into Lowndes County.

Newton travels to Valdosta tonight to take on the No. 10 Wildcats in a game that could help the Rams prove they belong in the state's top echelon after defeating No. 4 Lowndes two weeks ago.

The Rams needed a last-second touchdown to handle the Vikings on the road, but Newton head coach Terrance Banks said that his program is ready to prove that it belongs.

"We've probably had two of the better practices we have had all year coming out of the bye week," Banks said, "The kids have shown a lot of intensity. We harped on the kids that their win (over Lowndes) was a fluke. We've reminded them that people in the state may respect them, but they still don't believe. We want to show people this week that they should believe."

Banks said at the beginning of the season that Newton's first four games would be a good measuring stick for his program. The Rams enter the third game of their opening 4-game stretch against Valdosta tonight.

"Our first four games are against teams that made the playoffs last year," Banks said. "We're going to find out quickly how good we are. Valdosta is another challenge. A win over them wouldn't be the end all, be all for our program, but maybe it can help show them who we are as a team.”

The Wildcats are currently 3-0 this season with wins over Thomas County Central, Brooks County and Crisp County.

Despite Valdosta's perfect record, Banks believes the Rams match-up well against the Wildcats, but that being on the road may play a factor in tonight's contest.

"We match up in every category with Valdosta, but it's going to be tough because it's on the road and it's their homecoming," he said. "It's going to be a tough atmosphere, but we aren't going out there to lose. We're still loose and we want to raise expectations."

Banks said that to tame the Wildcats, his offense will have to play better and be more effective when it has scoring opportunities. Against Lowndes, the Rams scored just 15 points, despite a solid effort from the defense.
On offense, the Rams are averaging just over 21 points a game, while the Wildcats have allowed fewer than 17 points a contest.

"Offensively, we have to score more than 15 points," Banks said. "Our defense gave us five forced fumbles and we recovered three, but we only turned that into one touchdown. We were in the red zone twice and we only came away with points once. We were on the 1-yard line at Lowndes and we couldn't get in. That's not acceptable."

The Rams' defense was a turnover machine two weeks ago against the Vikings, something Banks said will be needed again to have a chance against Valdosta.

"Defensively, we have to play with the same style and intensity we brought to Lowndes," he said. "They have two very good running backs that are going to want to run the ball. We have to force them to throw the ball and try to get them off of their game plan. We have to go out there and execute our game plan."

Valdosta has averaged over 39 points a contest through its first three games. The offense, powered by running backs Malcolm Joseph and Nelson Herring, has combined to rush for 687 yards through their first three games.

Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bazemore-Hyder stadium.

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