It's been 28 years since the Newton Rams have been this appalling on the football field. And tonight something must give when the Morrow Mustangs enter Homer Sharp Stadium.
So far the Rams (0-2) have allowed a combined 54 points to crosstown rivals Eastside and Alcovy, and are still searching for their first touchdown of the year. Meanwhile, the Mustangs (0-2) have allowed 30 points, while scoring just six.
Coming off a bye week, the Rams have had plenty of time to prepare for their third game of the season. But nobody among the blue and white wants a win more than first-year head coach Nick Collins.
"We went back and simplified some things," said Collins. "We took some things out of our package, offensively and defensively."
The last time Newton started the season 0-2 was 2002. But the last time the Rams were held scoreless in their first two games of the year was 1979. In fact, that particular group was shutout six times, going 0-10 under head coach Dan Spier.
Like this season and to Newton's credit, that was a rebuilding year, as well.
Although it's still early, the blame for the lack of performance can be distributed to a host of factors, not just one, ranging from play-calling to the special teams unit, and everything else in between (i.e. blocking and tackling). In addition, the Rams are still in the works of learning an entirely new system.
But the Newton defense has allowed 782 yards of total yards, including 486 rushing yards. Meanwhile, the offense has recorded a meager 139 total yards, with just 66 coming on the ground.
For Collins, it has been a lot harder turning the football program around than originally anticipated. But a victory over Morrow would be an enormous turning point.
"You can only put on a good face for so long before frustration starts to show," said Collins.
Newton has won the past three meetings against Morrow. But a win will not come easy tonight, considering five players sustained injuries during the extended week of practice, including three starters. Running back Chris Dickerson and offensive lineman Ken Johnson suffered ankle injuries, while running back Akeem Hunt pulled a hamstring.
As a result, Collins is expecting to start five freshmen against the Mustangs. However, he is still trying to find the right combination of players who will do what it takes to win.
According to Collins, it begins with the basics: blocking and tackling, which is exactly what the Rams have not been doing lately. However, they received their first blocking sled last week, which should no doubt help them against the Mustangs.
"Nothing is going to be positive unless you get something started up front," said Collins.
Despite Morrow having a strong athletic team (no one in the secondary is under 6-feet tall), Collins is confident that his system will hold up against the Mustangs. But the Rams simply cannot afford to give up the big play, like they have done against Eastside and Alcovy.
"Our kids don't understand how deflating that becomes," said Collins.
Rebuilding takes time and patience. This isn't Hollywood - winning will not come overnight. It's still far too early for anyone to count this team out. That being said, the Rams will continue to play hard every single down throughout the season, no matter what happens.
"We've got eight (games) left," noted Collins. "The goal is to get into the playoffs. So, we're on step one of an eight-step plan.
"If you don't have that goal it's all irrelevant," he added. "We're not giving in and we're not going to give up."