BUFORD, Ga. — The Newton Rams traveled to take on one of the top teams in Georgia, and according to maxpreps.com, a top 35 high school squad in the nation. So the task was a huge one. We went out on a limb and picked an upset, because felt the Rams had would it took to hang. And while Newton came up short in the 54-27 loss, there were still some positive takeaways and interesting observations to be made.
1. Execution problems seem to beat the Rams more than their opponents do. I’m not saying that this is the overall reason they lost the game by such a huge margin, but it doesn’t help matters when the mistakes start piling up. There were penalties that pushed the Rams back, miscues on both sides of the ball, and turnovers – three interceptions and a lost fumble – that contributed to the loss. One of those interceptions came in the end zone on a wildcat formation where running back Adarius Thomas threw the ball. Thomas actually had a man open, but Buford pressure forced the bad throw. I firmly believe the game could have at least been closer had the mistakes — that one in particular — had not piled up.
2. Special teams is a work in progress, thanks to injuries. Speaking of miscues, it also did not help the Rams that Buford’s average starting field position was around the Newton 40-yard line every single possession. This was, in part, due to the Rams dealing with an injury at their punter position, leaving a void that they hoped star receiver Michael Mathison could fill. Despite a good week of practice, it was not that effective under the Friday night lights. The pressure from Buford often forced Mathison to quickly kick the ball, resulting in high, but short kicks that gave the Wolves excellent field position. It wasn’t until the second half that they tried using their kicker to punt the ball.
3. Stowers' first true road game was a tough test. LT Stowers won the starting quarterback position outright last week against Arabia Mountain and shined in that game. However, his first true road game was in one of the most hostile environments in the state against a very good Buford bunch. He didn’t play his best throughout much of the game, and coaches will tell you he made mistakes. But it wasn’t always all his fault. He was facing an intense pass rush on almost every play. However, in the second half he began making some great throws and adjustments on the read option. He connected with Robert Lewis for several big plays including a 78-yard touchdown pass that will surely boost his confidence moving forward.
4. Newton could’ve hung with Buford. It wasn’t until the end that we saw a barrage of back and forth scores by both teams that had many, including myself, wondering what could’ve happened had the Rams played that way in the first half of the game. Again, turnovers and special teams crippled them, but they still had opportunities to get back into the game. They matched up well in the skill positions, and harassed sophomore quarterback Aaron McLaughlin all night. Buford’s beefy offensive line and Power Five caliber tailbacks eventually wore Newton down. But you still got the feeling that Newton wasn’t just completely overmatched.
5. Despite two losses, the season is far from over. Don’t write these Newton Rams off. Head Coach Terrance Banks scheduled Buford because he knew that it would get his team ready for region match ups against Archer and Grayson in back to back weeks. Now that they have seen this style of team, the Rams will be more prepared moving forward. Even if they lose those games, and win the other games they could sit at 6-4 and still easily earn a playoff berth. Not to mention, as shown in the fourth quarter of the Buford game, the Rams do not lay down without a fight.