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Hardeman puts up Newton's first points in loss
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James Hardeman, getting his first start at running back, finally got Newton on the scoreboard Friday night.

However, it wasn't enough with Newton falling in its third straight loss, 31-7 to Valdosta at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

Despite Hardeman's 82-yard scoring effort, Newton accumulated just 73 yards of total offense. The Rams' senior ran for 116 yards on 20 carries.

With Newton picking up several negative plays, and only notching 34 yards on 5 of 15 passes by quarterback Kemani Pitman its defense needed to pave the way to the Rams first victory.

Newton allowed 212 yards rushing and another 82 through the air.

Valdosta's Malcolm Joseph ran for 136 yards on 24 carries, and scored three touchdowns.

The Wildcats (3-1) put the ball in the end zone on their first possession, driving 44 yards in six plays. On first-and-goal from the Rams' 7-yard line, Joseph took the handoff and ran through a hole on the right side of the Wildcats' offensive line. A defender met Joseph at the 3, but Joseph broke the tackle and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. Brennan Goodson's extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

On the first play of the Rams' ensuing possession, quarterback Kemani Pitman took the snap in the shotgun and handed the ball to Hardeman. Hardeman sped around the corner and then took off runnin
g down the sideline. Hardeman outran the Wildcat defense and dashed 82 yards for a touchdown. DeAndre Huff's extra point tied the score at 7-7.

"(Newton) was kind of along the lines of what we expected. They had some speed, they had some big kids up front. Their kids played hard, and battled for four quarters," Valdosta coach Rance Gillespie said.

Midway through the second quarter, Valdosta regained the lead. An 8-yard punt by Newton gave the Wildcats the ball at the Rams' 34. Joseph gained 11 and 10 yards on the first two plays, and Shelby Wilkes hit Sherrod Inman for 12 yards on a slant. Facing fourth-and-1 from the 4, Gillespie opted to go for it. Joseph took the handoff, ran off right tackle and crossed the goal line to give the Wildcats a 14-7 lead.

Five plays later, Newton tried to fake a punt, but Hardeman was tackled short of the first down. Valdosta took over at the Rams' 47, and on the first play, Alex Cason made a leaping catch along the Wildcats' sideline for a 31-yard gain. That set up a 35-yard field goal by Goodson with 44.5 seconds left in the first half, which gave Valdosta a 17-7 lead at halftime.

Late in the third quarter, a Valdosta drive appeared to stall at the Newton 41, but the Rams were flagged for roughing the passer, which gave the Wildcats a first down at the 26. An eight-yard run by Tim McClain and a 16-yard run by Joseph moved the ball to the 3.

On third-and-goal from the 1-foot line, on the second play of the fourth quarter, McClain took the handoff and crossed the goal line, extending Valdosta's lead to 24-7.

The Wildcats put the game away with an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive on their next possession. McClain's 31-yard run moved Valdosta to the Rams' 13, and three plays later, Joseph ran the ball in from the 2-yard line for his third touchdown of the night, giving Valdosta a 31-7 lead with 6:07 left in the game.

"I thought we did some things really well," Gillespie said. "It was really kind of along the lines of what we expected, as far as the football game went. We let the ball get out on us on that one touchdown, and that was disappointing, and we still had a couple of drops.

"But other than that, I thought we played a lot better. I really do... For the most part, we did some good things, we really did, and we were able to move the ball. And we were able to stop them."
Newton returns home against Langston Hughes on Thursday at 7 p.m.