So one of the advantages of having four of five days without any high school sports activity is that you get extra time to watch film of future opponents. I had a chance to dissect a little Lowndes football film and revisit some Newton gridiron action, and from that, plus what I've personally seen, I've tried to provide a little insight on what could happen tonight.
So here's a Game Day breakdown of tonight's ball game, which I'll be on hand for.
The Matchup: Newton Rams (3-0) of Region 8-AAAAAAA at No. 3 Lowndes Vikings (3-0) of Region 1-AAAAAAA). Both of these teams come into this game undefeated for the first time. Lowndes has won four of the five matchups between the two teams, but aside from a 31-0 win in 2012 and a 56-7 victory in 2015, the other three matchups have been decided by eight points or less. Lowndes is not only considered the No. 3 team in the state by the Georgia Sports Writers Association Poll, but it's also tabbed as the third-ranked team in the AJC’s top 10 rankings, as well as No. 2 in Georgia and the 24th-best high school team in the country by MaxPreps. The AJC projects Newton as a 16-point underdog.
The Venue: Martin Stadium, 1606 Norman Dr., Valdosta, GA 31601. Kickoff, Friday at 8 p.m.
The Playmakers at Newton Round up the usual suspects for the Rams. Senior quarterback, Myron Middlebrooks has been playing lights out ball, particularly in last week’s 47-29 win at Peachtree Ridge where Middlebrooks Accounted for 424 total yards of offense, while showing a steady, mature hand in guiding the Rams’ attack. In 62 pass attempts on the season, the 6-foot-2 signal caller has thrown 12 touchdown passes to zero interceptions. Helping him is a three-headed tailback monster, led by senior UAB commit, Nuru Tinch. The 6-foot, 215-pound specimen should be fresh after a couple of weeks off — one from a bye week and the other, trying to heal from illness. The young receiving corps of Mike Mathison, David Butso, Robert Lewis and Jerrol Hines is growing by leaps and bounds each week. The trenches are strong on either side of the ball for the rams, with an especially active defensive front featuring Clemson pledge Darnell Jefferies, Brandon Green and Dre Butler. Look for the secondary to be bolstered by the return of speedster Elija Godwin.
The Playmakers at Lowndes: It all starts offensively with quarterback Michael Barrett. The 5-foot-11, 208-pound senior is what many believe the epitome of a high level, Division I dual-threat quarterback. Through three games, Barrett has completed 67 percent of his passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns to no interceptions. He’s also toted the ball 29 times for 207 rushing yards and three scores. Barrett’s got 16 D-1 offers, including overtures from Michigan, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. Junior running back Travis Tisdale is the team’s second leading rusher behind Barrett, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. When the Vikings throw it, look for them to stretch the field with seniors, Tayvonn Kyle (16.7 yards per catch and three TDs) and Romikko Washington (22.7 yards per catch). Defensively, linebackers Will Tolbert and Tymere Moore lead an active front seven.
The Prediction: One thing is for sure, Newton will not be intimidated, nor feel out of place in what promises to be an hostile atmosphere at Lowndes’ Martin Stadium. This will be Newton’s sixth trip to Lowndes, and fifth under Banks. Middlebrooks started there as a junior and almost led the team to a come-from-behind win. Contrary to what some may believe, these two teams aren’t that far apart from a talent standpoint, at least on film. Newton’s probably the strongest its been up front in years. Meanwhile, as impressive as Barrett has been offensively for the Vikings, Newton’s Tinch has been equally unstoppable when he’s played. Expect a back-and-forth affair and an intense ballgame with both squads looking to prove a point against the other. As stated, Newton is more than a two touchdown underdog, despite almost always keeping things close in these games. Call us homers if you will, but we’ll go out on a limb and say the Rams get over the hump Friday night with a shocker for some. Score: Newton 36, Lowndes 28.