There is only one thing to say after the Newton Rams took on the Charles Drew Titans Thursday night at Sharp Stadium: Football is back!
Excitement filled the air of Homer Sharp Stadium as the first home game of the regular season kicked off. The Rams would come out on top, 39-24 after dominating on both offense and defense. During the game, many questions about the Rams were answered and many more questions were raised. Nonetheless, here are my five observations from Newton’s first win of the season:
1. Nuru Tinch is nothing short of a monster. Seriously. He only played one half of football. During those two quarters of play, he amassed 137 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown. The math is simple on that one, that is 11 yards per carry. Coach Terrance Banks pulled him after the second half, citing ball security as the reason, after Tinch fumbled the ball on the one-yard line. Despite that, Tinch has proven once again that he is one of the most underrated and physical running backs in the state. A current UAB commit, expect Tinch to pick up more offers as the season progresses if he continues to dominate like he did Thursday night.
2. Speaking of running backs, one had a coming out party. An unlikely hero emerged in the backfield as Tinch watched from the sidelines. It was senior, Ryan Burton. He flashed onto the scene when he took a handoff from Middlebrooks and blasted up the middle for 66 yards, before capping off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. In just five more carries after his initial two, he managed to total 103 yards for the night, which is an average of 14 yards per carry. Burton proved tonight that Newton — with Tinch, Burton and Adarius “DeeDee” Thomas — is absolutely loaded at the running back position, and can use the run game to wear defenses down.
3. Middlebrooks hasn’t missed a beat. He finished the night with nine completions on 18 attempts, 164 passing yards, and four touchdowns. That’s all you really need to tell you that the senior is only getting better. His fast rate of progression as the signal caller for the Rams will be one of their biggest benefits on offense. His ability to extend plays and to lead his second and third reads into space to create huge gains was put on display tonight, proving that despite having a younger receiving corps, he is capable of putting the playmakers in position to make make plays.
4. The defense swarmed on nearly every play. It wasn’t all about Darnell Jefferies tonight in terms of disrupting the Titans offense, although the future Clemson Tiger was dominant. The entire defense lived up to its “Blue Swarm” nickname. Beyond Jefferies, Brandon Green and Deandre Butler were relentless in pass rush. The “D” was constantly putting four plus hats on the ball every play, making it difficult for the Titans’ dual threat QB, Gary Tyner, to make many plays, save for a few big gains on scrambles after being flushed from the pocket. Not only was Tyner the victim of consistent pressure and multiple sacks at the hands of the Rams, but he also fell victim to a stingy group of defensive backs, led by Navy commit, Jaison Taylor who picked off Tyner and almost had another one later in the game. Although it is week one, this defense looks to be more intense and physical, by far, compared to last season’s group.
5. There is still room for improvement. The Rams looked a little shaky early on. Dropped passes, fumbles, interceptions, special teams errors, and more flags than Banks wanted to count hindered the Rams early on when Drew took a 6-0 lead on them and hung in the game for much of the first half. There were times when it seemed Newton beat itself and made the game a little closer than it should have been. Thankfully, it’s only week one. The Rams have plenty of time to correct those mistakes before they open up in region 8-AAAAAAA play against tough opponents in Grayson, South Gwinnett and Archer. If they fix the errors, they could be a deadly team in the region and potentially in the playoffs.