COVINGTON, Ga. -- Tonight marks the end of non-region play for the Newton Rams, essentially bringing us to the midpoint of the season. And the final non-region test will be a test, indeed. Westlake comes to town fresh off a near-miss against Class AAAAAAA No. 3 and nationally ranked Grayson, losing 21-16 last Friday.
The opportunity to get one more look at the Rams before moving into Region 8-AAAAAAA action ought to provide an entertaining contest.
The Matchup: Westlake Lions (2-2) at Newton Rams (2-2). Newton coach Terrance Banks has said repeatedly that this year’s non-region schedule was intended to give his team repeated looks at the kind of competition it will face once Region 8-AAAAAAA action kicks off with South Gwinnett on September 28. Last week’s game at Buford gave Newton a chance to see a team that looks similar to what it will see against Grayson and Archer, and this week’s battle with Westlake will pit Newton up against a squad that took Grayson down to the wire.
The When and Where: Friday September 21, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium, Covington.
The Key Players: Quarterback LT Stowers is maturing and settling into his starting role right before our eyes. That was evidenced by how he torched Buford’s secondary in the second half of last week’s game, on his way to a 350-yard performance against the state’s No. 6 team regardless of classification (according to MaxPreps). The wide receiver duo of Mike Mathison and Robert Lewis can really be called a trio when you add in Jerrol Hines. Newton is one of just four schools in the state to have three receivers listed in the Georgia High School Football Daily’s receiving yardage leaderboard, and Stowers is in the top 20 among passing yardage leaders in Georgia.
Running back Adarius Thomas was hampered by a bit of an illness last week, and should be back to speed. And defensively, watch for Jeffery Cook. The linebacker has been has emerged as quite the playmaker over the last several weeks.
For Westlake, so far the offensive playmaker is tailback Darrell Nicholls who, with 519 rushing yards, is one of the leading ball carriers in the state. The Lions are solid across the board in the skill positions, and in their two wins against Creekside and Lanier, the offense has put up 49 and 45 points respectively.
Newton wins…If it can maintain good balance offensively. Now that the secret’s out that the Rams sport one of the better passing games in the state right now, it could mean Westlake will do some things defensively to try and keep Stowers and company from another 350-yard outburst. To do that, it means Westlake may have to play a little softer in the middle against the run, and Thomas has been good for at least one run of 30-plus yards in each game this season. Josh Hardeman, more of a slasher, has the capability to take it to the house on any given carry as well.
Westlake wins…If it plays opportunistic football defensively and really pushes to force turnovers. It’s probably a given that Newton will bust some big plays on offense in this game as it has done against everyone its played. But if Westlake’s defense can create a couple of turnovers, and set themselves up for scores off those turnovers, it could make for an interesting ballgame.
The Prediction: These two teams appear to be pretty evenly matched. Expect a close game with some offensive fireworks. We think Newton will get the bounce-back win at home, though. Score: Newton 35, Westlake 31.