There are certain high school football teams that, when you evaluate them as an opponent you toss out some of the traditional tools of evaluation.
Things like classification and rankings come to mind. This is how we see tonight’s Newton at Class AAAAA No. 3 Buford clash taking place.
The Buford Wolves have been a perennial state power for a while, and have shown the ability to compete with any team in the state, regardless of classification. Meanwhile, when looking at Newton’s talent and depth most years — particularly over the last decade or so — there aren’t many schools in Georgia who can say they’re more talented, despite perhaps not holding that state power designator.
As we get set for Newton’s road trip to Buford, we’ll unpack and break down what we think could happen tonight.
The Matchup: Newton Rams (3-1) at No. 3 Buford Wolves (2-1). Both programs will come into Friday night’s matchup trying to prove something. Newton will look to notch a win over a quality opponent in an hostile environment, continuing to show that its lone loss of the season — a 27-20 setback to Class AAAA No. 7 Eastside — was an aberration. The Rams are program that’s been battle tested over the years, having gone on the road to play programs such as Lowndes and Valdosta. The Buford environment won’t be scary to them.
Meanwhile, Buford’s last time out on the field ended in a close 19-14 defeat at the hands of Deerfield Beach (Florida), one of the Sunshine State’s top programs. The Wolves will come in as the No. 3 team in Class AAAAA, according to the Georgia Sportswriters Association Poll and the sixth-ranked program in Georgia, regardless of classification, as determined by MaxPreps.com.
The When and Where: Friday September 14, 7:30 p.m. at Tom Riden Stadium, 2750 Sawnee Ave., Buford.
The Key Players: For Newton, one would think that the offense is riding a sizable crest of momentum after a solid performance last week against Arabia Mountain. It was the first full-time start for senior quarterback LT Stowers. And Newton’s offense looked to be better for it. Stowers will get his first true road test as a Georgia high school football player tonight, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the atmosphere. There’s plenty of talent to go around on the offensive side, starting with wideouts Mike Mathison and Robert Lewis, the latter coming into this game ranked in the top 50 among receivers for yardage. Newton’s line with Devin Durden and Kendrick Carlton seems to be gelling. Defensively, there seems to be a new star born each week, with last week’s emerging player being Jeffery Cook. Cook had several tackles for losses and a pair of quarterback sacks last week, garnering him his first college several days after the Arabia Mountain game.
For Buford, sophomore quarterback Aaron McLaughlin is a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder who threw for over 1,700 yards as a freshman last year for the Class AAAAA state runners-up. When the Wolves run it, they’ll likely look to a four-star prospect in Derrian Brown who will have arguably one of the state’s best offensive lines to run behind. There’s a smorgasbord of Power Five and Division I talent littered across the Wolves roster that Newton will have to contend with.
Newton wins…If it plays probably its best game of the season, as far as penalties and turnovers go. The Rams have the ability to beat Buford as long as they don’t beat themselves. Getting pressure on McLaughlin will also be key, and it could mean Newton dialing up a few blitzes and some creative ways of getting home, beyond that skilled Buford o-line.
Buford wins…If it gets off to a fast start, gets its crowd behind it and finds a way to keep tabs on Newton’s skill position players, particularly the wideouts and tailbacks, who have had a penchant for making big plays in every game so far in this young season.
The Prediction: Despite Newton being a Class AAAAAAA school and Buford being two classifications lower, it’s safe to say that many would consider a Newton win to be an upset. Well, at the risk of sounding like homers, we’re picking the upset tonight. We believe Newton will show up and dialed in, punch first, weather the storm and come out with a win that could raise a few eyebrows. Score: Newton 27, Buford 24.