COVINGTON, Ga. — Terrance Banks was in no mood to feel sorry for himself or his team after last Friday’s 57-14 loss to No. 4 Grayson.
A Region 8-AAAAAAA defeat, it put Newton (3-5, 1-2) in fourth place in the standings behind South Gwinnett and, of course, Archer and Grayson. But with remaining games against two teams with a combined 4-12 record, and with South Gwinnett still having to play both Archer and Grayson, its no wonder that Banks chose to be bullish about his team’s playoff hopes rather than stew over the Grayson defeat.
“We’re still in the catbird’s seat for the No. 3 seed in the playoffs,” Banks said. “We beat Shiloh, and we’re in the playoffs. We beat Shiloh and Rockdale, then we’ll have the No. 3 seed, and when playoff time comes, everybody’s 0-0 and all bets are off. Let’s go play football.”
Newton will, indeed, get to play football again tonight as it tries to take step one in executing Banks’ down-the-stretch philosophy when the Shiloh Generals (2-6, 0-3) come to Sharp Stadium.
Here’s the breakdown of tonight’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff
The Matchup: Shiloh Generals (2-6, 0-3) at Newton Rams (3-5, 1-2). Shiloh’s been one of the region teams Newton’s been able to dominate regularly since being paired up with the Generals in Region 8-AAAAAAA. Newton’s won the last four matchups with Shiloh, dating back to a couple of wins in 2010 and 2011 when Cortez Allen was still coaching at 1 Ram Way. But Banks’ squads have defeated Shiloh by a combined score of 67-0 over the last two seasons in Region 8-AAAAAAA.
To say the Generals program has struggled may be a bit of an understatement. Shiloh hasn’t seen the postseason since 2003, which is also the last time it had a winning record. The Generals will bring a three-game losing streak into Sharp Stadium tonight, while Newton will be looking to secure its seventh straight playoff berth.
The When and Where: Thursday October 25, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium, Covington.
The Key Players: One of the dangers in casing out a team solely, or even primarily, based on its win-loss record is you often run the risk of assuming said team is void of playmakers. The truth is, even winless squads have one or two players who could probably start, or at least contribute, on a winning team. Shiloh’s no different. In senior Ras Johnson and junior Arthur Rodgers, the Generals have a pair of tailbacks who have combined for over 1,000 rushing yards — almost equally split between the two of them — and nine touchdowns. The passing game has struggled, but sophomore Antonio Meeks has proven himself a talented young wideout. Defensively, watch juniors Isaac Dowling and Jasheen Davis. They combine for 28 tackles for losses and are among the team’s defensive leaders.
For Newton, it’s been fun watching some younger talent emerge, such as cornerback Nyland Green who now holds a Power Five offer from Rutgers. Green made a handful of nice plays even against Grayson, and the 6-foot-3 sophomore looks to be coming into his own. Of course there’s junior wideout Robert Lewis, also with a Rutgers offer, who has turned out to be one of the top young receivers in Georgia this year. Newton still has lots of firepower offensively and athleticism defensively that can do damage when it plays cleanly.
Shiloh wins…If Newton’s feeling sorry for itself after last week’s loss and comes out flat, which I don’t think will happen. The Generals just don’t have enough offensive firepower to score with the Rams, nor enough athletes on defense to hold Newton back. So it would take a near perfect game, plus some Newton help for Shiloh to get its first region win of the season.
Newton wins…If it can bottle up Shiloh’s run game and just be content to let its talent take over. Shiloh should be an outmatched foe.
The Prediction: The intangible aspect in this one is that Newton needs these last two wins (against Shiloh and Rockdale) to get some of its mojo back for the playoffs. You saw what almost happened last year when, even after losing a starting quarterback and running back, the Rams almost pulled off an upset of Parkview in the first round of the playoffs which would’ve brought them back home for the second round. Anything can happen once the postseason begins, but the Rams have to be in the right mindset for that "anything" to take place. That right mindset begins with beating Shiloh soundly tonight. Score: Newton 41, Shiloh 3.