COVINGTON, Ga. -- The Newton Rams are coming off their bye week to face a stiff challenge in an Arabia Mountain team that's been more than solid over the past several seasons. Here's our breakdown of what to expect from tonight's Battle of the Rams:
The Matchup: Arabia Mountain Rams (2-1) at Newton Rams (1-1). These teams don’t just share nicknames and mascots. They also look similar in terms of the kind of talent they bring to the field. Newton coach Terrance Banks has said that Arabia Mountain won’t be the kind of team that his Rams can just run past. From a skill position standpoint, both of these teams are very similar, which means a healthy dose of intangible success will likely be the key for whomever wins.
The When and Where: Friday September 7, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium, Covington.
The Key Players: For Newton, after several weeks of toggling back and forth between quarterbacks Neal Howard and LT Stowers, Banks appears to have made a decision in terms of who he’ll tab as more of a full time starter. Although, that decision won’t be made known to the masses until kickoff time. Nevertheless, there are plenty of offensive weapons around whomever will take the snaps tonight. One group to hone in on is Newton’s pass catchers. Mike Mathison and Robert Lewis are the headliners, but Jerrol Hines, Adarius Thomas and even Khalil Wilcox at times will show up in the passing game. Defensively, Tyon Bigby is starting to become a major player in Newton’s front seven, and of course, linebacker Cozbi Craig is the heart and soul.
For Arabia Mountain, it starts with quarterback Bryson Williams who is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound Division I prospect, cut from the pro-style mold. He’s already thrown for 617 yards and five touchdowns. And with no interceptions and a near-60 percent completion rate, he’s not the kind of guy who will give the defense gifts. Receiver Matthew Crawford is the top pass catcher, but Arabia has three other guys averaging over 15 yards per catch.
Arabia Mountain wins…If it can protect its stud quarterback and generate a little more punch in the run game to keep Newton honest defensively. Arabia’s top rusher, junior Amir Muhammad, has just 140 yards on 36 carries. As a team, Arabia Mountain averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
Newton wins…If it settles in to a clear offensive identity, and can get consistent pressure on Williams. Banks himself has said that his team lacked offensive identity, despite its array of talent. Settling on a quarterback — no matter who it is — will no doubt help that process. Also, Newton will have to be sound in taking care of the ball and eliminating penalties — the finer details — in order to overcome the talent parity between both teams.
The Prediction: Arabia Mountain’s only loss this year was a 34-22 setback to Class AAAAA No. 4 Stockbridge. They’re coming off of back-to-back 10-3 seasons complete with deep playoff runs. Forget the fact that it’s a Class AAAAA and Newton’s a Class AAAAAAA school. This is no pushover game. However, I think Newton will shake off a slow start and look sharper offensively en route to a decently convincing win. Score: Newton 35, Arabia Mountain 21.