The Matchup: Eastside Eagles (1-0) (Region 4-AAAA) at Newton Rams (1-0) (Region 8-AAAAAAA). The Eagles, coached by third-year head coach Troy Hoff, are coming off a 50-6 region and season opening win against Luella last week. Meanwhile, Newton, headed by coach Terrance Banks, now in his fifth year, defeated its season opening opponent, Drew, 39-24 last Thursday. It’s the 14th meeting between the in-county rivals, and thanks to a 41-41 tie in last year’s game, the all-time series is deadlocked at 6-6-1.
The Venue: Homer Sharp Stadium, 3135 Newton Dr., Covington, GA 30014. Kickoff, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Playmakers at Eastside: The Eagles debuted a shift under center when sophomore Noah Cook took on quarterbacking duties, instead of senior Brayden Harper who had prepared much of the offseason to take the starting job. Cook accounted for two scores, and helped produce a handful of big plays in the passing game, connecting multiple times to Harper who slid back to his receiver spot. With receivers like Jamari Brown and Jerry Mays, and running backs Taylor Carter, Tyon Davis and the versatile Jordan Rogers offensive coordinator, Jay Cawthon has plenty of toys to play with. Lamarius Benson’s tough line play on both sides seemed contagious.
The Playmakers at Newton: Just as at Eastside, the Rams saw an unheralded playmaker emerge in its season opener. Senior Ryan Burton burst onto the scene in relief of Nuru Tinch, who rolled up 137 rushing yards in 12 first half carries. Burton was just as effective in the second half, netting 127 rushing yards of his own on 11 carries. Both tailbacks had a score. With that production, it didn’t really matter that Newton’s other stud tailback, Adarius “Dee Dee” Thomas only had four touches for 15 yards. Quarterback Myron Middlebrooks was an efficient 8-of-14 for 144 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Defensively, Darnell Jefferies and fellow senior Dre Butler both had three quarterback sacks, while linebacker James Hardeman totaled 11 stops.
The Prediction: These games are almost always tight and drama-filled. In fact, only three of the series’ 13 games have been decided by more than 15 points. With Eastside (Class AAAA) having always been the smallest school in the county, and Newton (Class AAAAAAA) being the largest, that shows that the records and all conventional means of evaluating how a large school and small school compete with each other, can go out the window when these two meet. However, from what we’ve seen, although skill guys are almost equally impressive, the difference will be up front. Newton’s behemoth offensive and defensive lines will eventually lean on the smaller Eastside trenchmen and the 6-foot, 215-pound Tinch will find ample running room. Emotion keeps it close early, but Newton pulls away. Score: Newton 41, Eastside 21.