COVINGTON, Ga. -- A certain word comes into Adarius Thomas’ mind when he thinks about some of the rhetoric and expectations surrounding Newton football this year.
Bandwagon, is that word. As in, watch the bandwagon get full once Newton begins to prove that it’s still a Region 8-AAAAAAA threat, even without the roster holding that typical one or two players with a bunch of recruiting stars behind their names.
“Everybody likes to get on a bandwagon when you start winning,” Thomas said. “But we’re not concerned about what people are saying. We know what kind of team this can be, and we’re ready to prove it.”
He’s not the only one. When Newton took the stage during the East Atlanta Metro Football Media Day last month, to a man, each of the three players expressed confidence in their ability to play with — and defeat — the big boys of Class AAAAAAA high school football.
“We like the fact that people think we’ve fallen off, or whatever,” said Newton linebacker Cozbi Craig. “In fact, we relish the opportunity to play against those teams. And we don’t care where we play them at. We feel like we’ll be ready.”
Wide receiver Mike Mathison expressed a similar sentiment.
“It’s those games against the Bufords, the Graysons and the Archers that we really look forward to,” he said. “We like lining up against those boys and we like the possibility of trying to beat them. We want to give them a run for their money.”
Lately, it’s been tough sledding against teams like Grayson and Archer which have beaten the Rams in their last two games with a more-than-doubled margin of victory. Both Grayson and Archer are not only considered Region 8-AAAAAAA heavyweights, but both are nationally ranked.
“One (Grayson) is the No. 5 team in the country,” Banks said. “One (Archer) is the No. 25 team in the country according to MaxPreps. And then you have Buford who’s always there, and then there’s us. And if we can find a way to topple those guys, then you’ll probably feel pretty good about where you stand come playoff time.”
If Newton finds a way to knock dow even one of those two towers, it would be the biggest of ironies, given that the Newton Rams have just one player listed as a top 150 recruit, according to 247sports.com this year, and that’s 6-foot-5, 330-pound lineman Kendrick Carlton.
Over the last three years, Newton’s always had at least two or three players on such lists, with several others threatening to crack it. This year, though, Craig feels like the Rams have something bigger and more meaningful than a recruiting ranking.
“We’ve got brotherhood, man,” Craig said. “We’ve got guys who believe in each other and believe in the process. Nobody thinks their bigger than the other, and no one believes they’re too good to do the work.”
This isn’t lost on Banks, as he says he’s been coaching long enough to know that sometimes talent is only a piece of the puzzle.
“Football is a funny game, because when you think about it, sometimes those teams that have all the talent and have all the stars and are supposed to be the ones to take you all the way barely make it past the first round,” he said. “While some of our teams that have gone deeper into the playoffs are the ones who didn’t always have those type of players. So you can’t always judge by that.”
The Rams said they’ll go into each game with a chip on their shoulders. But expect a weightier chip to be reserved for the big boys.
“We don’t necessarily feel like we have anything to prove to ourselves or each other,” Mathison said. “And I think the guys at the other bigger schools do respect us. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But we definitely want to go out and prove that you don’t have to have all that in order to win those kinds of games. We want to prove we already have what it takes.”