MARIETTA, Ga. — Saturday's playoff game between Newton and Marietta may have ended in lopsided fashion, but really the difference was just a few plays.
The Rams inability to capitalize on prime opportunities was their downfall losing 35-0 to the Blue Devils at Northcutt Stadium.
The most prime scoring opportunity came with 1:13 to play in the third quarter while the Rams trailed 14-0. Newton's offense advanced the ball to the three-yard line with a second and goal.
On the ensuing play, JaMarcus Presley took the handoff up the middle trying to locate the goal line. In doing so, the ball was stripped away from Presley and recovered by the Blue Devils' defense.
The tide quickly changed from Newton being on the doorstep of the endzone to being on their heels on defense.
Marietta took the next possession all the way down the field after the turnover. With 9:39 left in the game, the Blue Devils capped off their 97-yard drive with a nine-yard rushing score.
At that moment, it seemed like the Rams' sideline deflated and they never came close to avoiding the shut out again.
But Newton’s defense let opportunities slip through its hands early in the contest.
On two occasions in the first quarter, the Rams had Marietta's offense operating out of the shadow of its own goal post. Both times, the Blue Devils found real estate — following a series of missed tackles — right up the middle.
The Blue Devils proceeded to score touchdowns from 84 and 76 yards out, respectively.
Newton's defense did provide a spark, though.
Around five minutes to go in the first quarter, Ryshawn Perry tipped and intercepted a pass at the plus-44. Once again, however, the Rams' offense sputtered after failing to convert a fourth and eight on the plus-24.
As the game progressed, that became the story for the Rams in this one.
Saturday’s loss ends the Rams’ 2022 season at 6-5 overall with a 3-2 record in Region 4-AAAAAAA. Newton finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak to earn the No. 3 seed out of the region.
The playoff appearance is Newton’s 11th out of the past 12 seasons.