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GAME DAY: Newton looking to be upset minded at No. 5 Archer
Neal Howard
Don't be surprised to see junior quarterback Neal Howard inserted into tonight's game in place of LT Stowers if Newton coach Terrance Banks feels Howard can give the team a pick-me-up. - photo by Anthony Banks

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga.-- For the Newton Rams, Game Day today represents another opportunity for coach Terrance Banks to grab what some might call that “program defining win” against a marquee opponent. 

The Rams head to Lawrenceville tonight for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff with the No. 5 Archer Tigers in a Region 8-AAAAAAA clash that comes one week after Newton defeated South Gwinnett 31-7 in the region opener for both squads. Archer’s coming off a bye week, but its last game was an impressive 48-24 win over highly regarded Class AAAAA Buford — the same Buford Newton fell to 54-27 last month. 

But if you want to talk matchup comparisons, remember Newton came within one point of dethroning then-No. 2 Archer last year at Sharp Stadium. The recall of that memory could serve one of two purposes: It could either fuel the Tigers to not take the Rams lightly, or it can be a reminder that Newton has the talent to compete with the ‘big boys’ when it plays well. 

The Matchup: Newton (3-3, 1-0) at No. 5 Archer 4-1 0-0). This is the region opener for fifth-ranked Archer and also the third meeting between the two region foes. When they’ve gotten together it’s either been a blowout, or close. Many remember the aforementioned 20-19 loss to the Tigers last year — a game where Newton lead by two touchdowns before then-senior quarterback Myron Middlebrooks sustained a season-ending injury on a play during a drive that could’ve put the Rams up by three scores. 

The previous year, however, Banks’ squad was on the receiving end of a 42-0 drubbing. Banks is 2-11 against Georgia Sportswriters top-10 ranked programs during his time with the Rams, and will be looking for his first win against a ranked foe since defeating No. 3 Valdosta 27-14 in the 2014 state playoffs. 

The When and Where: Thursday October 4, 7:30 p.m. at Archer High School, 2255 Hope Rd., Lawrenceville, GA. 

The Key Players: The quarterback situation at Newton may seem fluid, given what happened last week when junior Neal Howard, who lost a battle for the starting job to senior LT Stowers, came in for Stowers in the second half and seemingly helped jumpstart a largely dormant offense, en route to the run-away victory against South Gwinnett. Howard passed for 143 yards and two scores in the second half alone. But we still expect Stowers to get the start tonight. However, Banks has shown he’s not afraid to make the switch if he feels it can help his team’s chances of winning. 

Speaking of quarterbacks, if Archer’s Carter Peevey plays tonight as he did during the Tigers’ last game, it could mean a long night for Ram Nation. Peevy accounted for four touchdowns and 319 total yards in the Buford win. Tailbacks Jeremiah Cook and Semaje Banks are major playmakers for the offense as well. 

Newton wins…If it can manufacture a balanced offensive attack that keeps a salty Archer defense guessing. Before the Buford game, the Tigers posted back-to-back shutouts against Norcross and Mill Creek while scoring a combined 75 points. Buford busted some big plays early to keep things close, but couldn’t sustain that momentum. Newton has been a big play offense, but it’ll also need to sustain some lengthy drives to help its chances.

Archer wins…If it can force the Rams into its achilles heel — turnovers and penalties. Sometimes such things are self inflicted. Other times, it’s a direct reflection on the kind of defense the opposition is facing. This could be the best defense Newton’s faced thus far, and if the Tigers clamp down and limit the Rams’ chunk yardage plays, the Tigers have the offensive firepower to make it one-sided.

The Prediction:  With Newton having to face Archer and Grayson in its next two games, technically the path to a region championship is in their hands. But beating either of those teams — let alone both — will be a tall order.  Score: Archer 37, Newton 17.