Ashton Hagans has never touched the floor of Newton High School's gym at a real regular season game yet, but that doesn't matter to the University of Georgia. They've seen enough of Hagans in AAU and throughout the summer league to offer him before he's scored his first high school basket.
Coming off a thriller in Rome going for a fourth-straight win, Newton found itself on the road yet again, against another tough opponent in Westlake. The Rams, however, came out of the game unscathed as Newton's offensive line tossed Westlake's defense around like ragdolls and the ground-and-pound game led the Rams to a 27-7 victory. Newton's Kurt Taylor Jr. finished with 30 carries for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Newton County Sheriff's Deputy Clarence White and the Newton Rams coaching staff came together to build a connection between the Rams and the community as well as give the young players a sense of giving back.
Newton was supposed to run away with this game, but with two weeks to plan Rome had other things in mind and they matched Newton almost point-for-point on the night. The Wolves took their first lead of the game with less than 50 seconds left to play with a 33-29 lead, but Newton answered on the first play from scrimmage when senior QB Romario Johnson tossed a 77-yard touchdown pass to JJ Holloman to take a 35-33 lead after the blocked PAT. Newton's defense held tight in the final 19 seconds to win the game.
Newton softball is coming off a season that saw the Lady Rams lose in the region championship to Alcovy and get bounced from the first round of the state playoffs. The Lady Rams didn't lose much from that team, and the experience for the young team that they were last year projected them to be much better this year. So far they're off to a slow start on that front as they fell to Shiloh 7-3 to open the season and lost to Locust Grove and Peachtree Ridge later in the week.
Eastside came out in full force, like this game had playoff implications, and Newton came out like it was a scrimmage, which it was, but being the rivals that the two teams are bragging rights were on the line and the Eagles struck first on an Austin Holloway touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Kurt Taylor Jr. has slowly been gaining attention from colleges across the nation. He's been on multiple unofficial visits and met coaches from UGA to Rutgers, but it means nothing if they don't make the three-star running back an offer. Michigan was added to the list of schools that have offered Newton's star running back, and they're easily the biggest and best offer thus far. Offers will pour in this season if Taylor Jr. has the kind of season many people believe he can have.
A 13-17 (8-2 Region 2-AAAAAA) record last year yielded a huge blowout loss to county/region rival Alcovy in the region championship and a first round exit in the playoffs. The Lady Rams were a team lacking experience last year, but in 2015 they have an abundance of it.
Barely leading with minutes left in the game, a Newton turnover gave the ball and a chance to take a commanding lead back to Etowah. Again and again Etowah lined up and ran through Newton, eventually scoring two touchdowns in the final minutes of the game, advancing to the final four and sending Newton packing.
Editor's note: While on vacation in Seattle for the holiday weekend, I called up Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen to talk about how he thought summer went for the Rams' basketball team. Rasmussen talks about the Rams' new style of play, how this team compares to his most recent final four team and if they're a high school copy of the Golden State Warriors.
Newton lost star point guard D.J. Hill to college along with a number of other talented seniors, but the team isn't in a rebuilding state of mind. With the additions of freshmen Ashton Hagans and Colby Rogers plus the emergence of juniors J.D. Notae and Dante Johnson Newton will be a formidable bunch when the season starts.