Newton's recipe for success was simple - strong defense and a solid running attack.
Two turnovers for touchdowns, five sacks and 152 yards rushing by James Hardeman was too much for Rockdale as the Rams claimed the first County Line Cup 27-6 at Sharp Stadium Friday night.
"Bottom line is we couldn't move the ball," Rockdale coach Venson Elder said. "Our offensive line took a couple of steps backward tonight. We couldn't block their ends and that disrupted everything we were trying to do."
The Rams opened the scoring on a punt blocked right into the bread basket of Toyous Avery, who took it 12 yards into the end zone, giving Newton a 7-0 lead 1:15 into the game.
From there Newton kept Rockdale at bay, shutting down the running game and tallying five sacks on freshman quarterback Zuri Minifield - three by Kingsley Ejike and two by Treyvon Richardson.
"Those were there goals for the game," Newton coach Cortez Allen said. "They knew they should be taking their game to a different level and they did tonight."
While Rockdale was limited to just one dimension, tallying minus-9 yards on the ground, Newton picked its dimension, keeping the ball on the ground for much of the game.
After Newton's punt-block touchdown, Rockdale quickly answered for its only score of the game, using six plays to find the end zone. Starting from the Newton 33-yard line, Zuri Minifield threw three passes on the drive for 76 yards, including a 41-yarder to Targee Steel, setting up a touchdown play.
Minifield hit Aubrey Brown for a 25-yard score, and after Rockdale failed on the two-point conversion, the Bulldogs trailed 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion.
Minifield threw for 171 yards in the first half, including 105 yards to Steel, but in the second half Newton's defensive line proved too much.
Rockdale managed just 32 yards of offense in the second half, while Newton continued to hand the ball off to Hardeman up 20-6 at intermission.
Hardeman had his biggest run with 1:31 remaining in the first quarter, rumbling 31 yards into the end zone for a 14-6 Newton lead.
After Rockdale's score, the Rams tallied the second of their four turnovers and first of two interceptions. Minifield, threw up field to a wide-open Nick White, of Newton. White then returned the ball 61 yards into the end zone giving Newton a 20-6 lead with 1:31 left in the first half.
"Nick's been having a great year," Allen said. "The last three years we had some kids have outstanding years, and Nick White is having one of those years for the ages."
Newton's Joe Rocket rounded out the scoring on a 5-yard run with 52.5 seconds left in the third quarter following a short Rockdale punt from its own 3-yard line.
Following the game, Allen not only lifted up the County Line Cup for the first time, but was able to get a victory over his own high school coach. Elder coached linebackers at Southwest DeKalb when Allen was a player with the Panthers until 1996.
"He's one of my former players and I‘m happy for him and his staff and his kids," Elder said. "He did a great job."
Newton is now 3-0 in region play, the only unbeaten 2-AAAAAA team, along with Lovejoy. The two teams meet for a chance at the region title at Lovejoy Friday.
"Right now we feel like we're in the driver's seat," Allen said. "Next week, based on what Lovejoy's doing (Friday night), we'll go down there for the region championship. That's where we wanted to be at this point in the season. We're excited, the kids are working hard and we're meshing right now."