Looking back: Five things learned from Archer at Newton
Newton head football coach, Anthony Banks speaks with a referee during a stoppage of play in Saturday's 20-19 loss to No. 3 Archer. - photo by Anthony Banks

On Saturday, October 7, the Newton Rams hosted a formidable opponent in the undefeated Archer Tigers who came into Saturday’s game ranked third in Class AAAAAAA. The Rams were on a bit of a hot streak, with two straight decisive victories, but knew this game would be a battle. Indeed it was, but Archer squeaked away with a 20-19 win over the Rams. Despite the demoralizing loss, the Rams showed resiliency and determination after star QB Myron Middlebrooks went down with injury early in the game. Looking back, here are five things we learned from the game:

 

1. With Myron Middlebrooks, the Rams’ offense is legit. Without him…?

            Before Myron Middlebrooks went down early in the first half, the Newton offense had its way with Archer’s defense. On the opening drive, Middlebrooks marched his squad down on a 10-play, 80-yard drive, capping it off by calling his own number on a touchdown run. The next drive almost stalled, but on a fourth and long, Middlebrooks scrambled for a first down to keep the drive alive. Running back Nuru Tinch punctuated the drive with a short touchdown run. Soon after, Middlebrooks went down with what appeared to be a shoulder or collarbone injury and the offense stalled. With the way Middlebrooks was carving up the Tiger’s defense, if he had remained healthy, the Rams might have very well handled Archer, and pulled out a very impressive win.

2. The Rams’ defense is legit.

            Coming into the game, Archer averaged just under thirty points a game. But the Rams stifled the Tiger offense for most of the afternoon, holding them to only twenty points. The defense came to play for sure. The Rams had their hands on the ball all night, dropping two interceptions with Rod Kirkland grabbing one. With the exception of a few chunk plays, the Archer offense struggled to sustain anything consistently throughout the day. Again, if Middlebrooks remained healthy – and even without him – the defense played winning football.

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Rod Kirkland takes off on an interception return during Saturday's game against Archer. - photo by Anthony Banks

3. Coach Banks is aggressive, arguably to a fault.

            One thing evident in the matchup was the aggressive play calling from Newton coach, Terrance Banks. On each of the Rams’ first two scoring drives, Coach Banks elected to go for two point conversions instead of kicking extra points with the decently sure-footed Victor Pinedo. Both failed, but a message was relayed: we are not afraid of the big boys. Along with aggression on extra points, Newton went for it on fourth down multiple times, including a fourth and long on the second scoring drive. Banks even dialed up a successful fake punt with defensive end/tight end Dre Butler. Although the courage was inspiring, many wonder if it cost Newton the game as it was only decided by one point. Maybe one extra point instead of a two-point attempt ties the game, and it’s a whole different story. Or perhaps kicking a field goal on a 4th and 4 at the Archer 17 midway through the third quarter would’ve changed things. Nevertheless, the courage is indeed inspiring and lets everyone know Banks fears no team, and seems to trust his own.

4. Without Middlebrooks, the running game has to step up.

            We still are unsure about the severity of Middlebrook’s injury, but if he is scheduled to miss extended time, the Rams’ running attack will be key to their offensive success. Sophomore quarterback Neal Howard stepped in for the injured Middlebrooks, and played admirably, but spent most of the game handing the ball off. Middlebrooks is an irreplaceable component of this offense, both through the air and on the ground. If he misses any time, the offensive front, Nuru Tinch, and Adarius Thomas will have to be huge, especially against top-ranked Grayson in two weeks.

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Newton's Nuru Tinch shouldered much of the offensive load after the injury to quarterback Myron Middlebrooks. - photo by Anthony Banks

5. Newton can play with the “big boys.”

            Obviously Newton is a great team, but Archer came into this game undefeated and unstoppable. After their less-than-stellar performance against No. 2 Lowndes earlier in the year, many were wondering how the Rams’ would respond to another highly ranked team. The Rams showed up and showed out. With all eyes on the them, Newton played an outstanding game defensively, on special teams, and with Middlebrooks, offensively. Even with a stagnant offense for most of the game, the Rams kept it close all night, and found ways to answer Archer scores, and still had a chance to win it late. Yes, there are no moral victories, but they should be very proud of their performance.