For the first time in five years, Homer Sharp Stadium will see football action on consecutive nights — three straight, to be exact.
It all kicks off Thursday night at 7 p.m. when the Charles Drew Titans come from Clayton County to visit the Newton Rams in the season opener for both schools, and one of the first games of the regular season statewide.
What will follow constitutes to a smorgasbord of gridiron action as Alcovy then plays host to Duluth Friday night and Eastside welcomes Luella to Sharp Stadium on Saturday. Both games are slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
But first things first. Let’s take a deeper look at the season opening matchup between Drew and Newton.
The Venue: Homer Sharp Stadium, 3135 Newton Dr., Covington, GA 30014. Kickoff at 7 p.m.
The Matchup: Drew Titans (Region 4-AAAAAA) at Newton Rams. The Titans, coached by fourth-year head coach Dorwyn Lyles, finished the 2016 season with a 3-7 record, while Newton, headed by coach Terrance Banks, now in his fifth year, concluded with a 6-4-1 mark, with a first round playoff loss to Mill Creek. It’s just the second meeting all time between the two schools, with Newton having won last year’s season opener with the school, 25-13 on the road.
The Playmakers at Drew: Both schools return quarterbacks who started in 2016. For Drew, it’s 6-foot-1, 185 pound senior, Gary Tyner. Tyner, considered a dual threat, threw for 1,257 yards and eight touchdowns last year while adding 598 rushing yards and 11 scores on the ground. He’s the team’s second leading returning rusher behind senior tailback, C.J. Davenport who ran for 706 yards at a 5.3-yards-per-carry clip and four scores last year. He was also the team’s leading receiver. Several pieces return on the offensive line to help provide space for Tyner to work the Titan’s fast-paced, high octane offense. Defensively, it’s first team All-region linebacker, Anthony Menchacha’s show. With well over 100 tackles last year, he’ll help provide playmaking ability for what should be a pretty disruptive front seven.
The Playmakers at Newton: Starting under center, we’re talking about senior quarterback Myron Middlebrooks. The 6-foot-2 quarterback completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,381 yards and 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions last year. But it helped that he had passing targets like now-Georgia Bulldogs freshman J.J. Holloman. He also ran for 277 yards and three scores. But beyond the numbers, Middlebrooks carries the look and demeanor of a seasoned veteran in the Rams’ shotgun “power spread” offense. And we call it “power spread” because of who Middlebrooks will hand off to. UAB commit Nuru Tinch and junior speedster Adarius Thomas provide what could prove to be one of the most potent tailback tandems in the state. Mike Mathison is promising at receiver, but the strength on both sides of this team will lie up front. Clemson pledge, Darnell Jefferies is one of the state’s top defensive tackles. But Brandon Green isn’t too far behind. The linebacking corps and secondary are chock full of speed.
The Prediction: Always hard to really get a feel at the beginning of the season where there isn’t much prior action to judge from, but in Newton’s scrimmage against Class AAA defending state champ and preseason No. 2 Cedar Grove, the Rams looked like a dominant, contender of a 7A program. We think the Rams are hungry to prove that last year’s 6-4-1 finish was an aberration. Banks says this could be one of the more complete teams, top to bottom, that he’s been around. Drew will provide some tests with athleticism in spots, but this looks like an early statement win for Newton. Score: Newton 35, Drew 17.