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Newton Rams football shuts out Eastside to claim Newton Cup
Justin Benton vs. Eastside
Newton's Justin Benton (99) scores against Eastside in the Rams' 12-0 win over the Eagles Friday night.

COVINGTON, Ga. — It was a defensive slugfest between the Newton Rams and Eastside Eagles on the gridiron Friday night. But ultimately the Rams made enough plays to defeat their in-county rival 12-0. 

Newton's head coach Camiel Grant Jr. commended his team's effort to battle every single play. 

"We told them at halftime not to be scoreboard and just play your game," Grant said. "I felt like we did a really good job of staying in the moment. There were a lot of things that could've gotten us off kilter. But I'm extremely proud of how they responded." 

Everything, though, was hard earned for both offenses. It wasn’t until Eastside gave the ball away early in the contest that Newton was able to remove one of those zeros from the scoreboard. 

Kyle Veasley forced and recovered a fumble by Kenai Grier. Veasley was close to a scoop and score before he tripped at the 1-yard line. 

West Virginia commit Justin Benton took it from there on a hand-off from Riley Scruggs to punch in the Rams score. 

Newton led 6-0 with 3:04 remaining in the first quarter after Jefferson Hernandez’s PAT was unsuccessful. 

From there, Eastside seemed to be its own worst enemy. 

Numerous times, the Eagles were driving on offense and either a penalty or a fumble lost would cause the drive to end. By the game’s end, Eastside committed over 10 penalties and had three fumbles lost. 

But Newton’s defense stepped up and made some noteworthy plays as well. 

One of Eastside’s earlier offensive sparks was when it was facing a 1st and 25 play in the second quarter. E’Sean Arnold connected with Jayden Barr wide open over the middle of the field for a 47-yard gain down deep in Newton territory. 

But Newton’s defense forced a turnover on downs when Jaborri Evans stuffed Kenai Grier at the line of scrimmage on 4th and 2 at the 20-yard line. 

Eastside's head coach Jay Cawthon stressed the need for locating stars to help move the ball offensively. 

"We got to find more playmakers on the outside and I think we'll do that," Cawthon said. "We're a power running football team and that's what we're going to hang our hat on." 

Coming out of halftime, Newton seemed to find a rhythm of its own on offense. 

It took the Rams four plays to drive 60 yards for a touchdown. Zion Johnson ripped off a 29-yard touchdown run to extend Newton’s lead 12-0 less than two minutes into the third quarter. 

The Rams were far from error free themselves, though.

Their penalty total was around 10, too, plus snapping the ball to Scruggs seemed to an issue throughout the night. One snap went over the quarterback’s head resulting in a nine yard loss on the cusp of the red zone. 

But Newton made enough plays to survive with the win. 

Both teams’ second half possessions were limited as they prioritized the run and bled the clock the rest of the way. 

Eastside (1-1) will face Alcovy (1-1) as both teams look to bounce back to conclude the Newton Cup rivalry matchups. Despite the loss, Cawthon expressed his pride in his team's effort all night. 

"Our kids fought their butts off," Cawthon said. "I couldn't be more proud of our football team. Our defense played lights out all night. On offense, we did some good things and just couldn't get it in the end zone against a tough defense." 

With the win, Newton improves to 3-0 with its first road matchup of the season at McEachern next week. After beating McEachern last year, Grant is excited for the opportunity to face the Indians again. 

"We got to get these things we saw tonight cleaned up," Grant said. "McEachern is always a great football team. It's going to be another game similar to this. We'll play a very good, well-coached team on the road. I got a lot of confidence in our guys and our staff. We got our work cut out for us."