There is a saying, ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ but there’s another saying ‘defense wins a championships.’ Newton (2-0, Region 2-AAAAAA) subscribes more to the mantra of having a good offense, and Westlake (2-1, Region 3-AAAAAA) is more of a defensive juggernaut.
The Lions are coming into their matchup with the Rams, having given up just 14 points in three games. While Newton is coming in, although they’ve played only two games with the last one cancelled due to bad weather, having scored at least 48 points in each game.
Westlake’s starting quarterback was injured in its last game, so the Rams will look to force the hand of whoever the Lions choose as their signal caller Friday night. Julian Jones, an Arkansas State commit who played quarterback for the Lions last year, might be called upon to take up that role again. However, this would be an opportunity for the Rams to use their fast-paced offense to get Jones tired, as he plays linebacker for the Lions, too.
“We wanna make them have to throw to beat us,” Terrance Banks, Rams’ head coach, said. “They’ve got some questions at what they’re going to do at quarterback. They played three different quarterbacks last week. We’ll love nothing more than to hopefully make those questions continue to force them to have to beat us in the air.”
Westlake’s Nigel Warrior, son of Newton County legend Dale Carter, is a class of 2016 safety being recruited by Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio State, just to name a few. Carter was a defensive back for Newton before he continued his career at the University of Tennessee and eventually the NFL. Carter won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1992
Warrior hasn’t fallen far from the tree. He’s one of the leaders on a loaded Lions’ defense. Offensively, Banks says they’ll take what they get, but won’t let Weslake dictate the game to them.
“We always take what we get. We’re a vertical passing team, so we’re gonna try to go vertical on everybody,” Banks said.
“I don’t think we’ll ever let any team dictate how we run our offense. However, we are gone take what a team gives us,” Banks said. “If they say you can have the underneath, we’ll go underneath. We got different ways to get vertical. So we’ll just have to figure out what’s our best plan of attack, but we’re still gone do what we do.”
This game is huge for Newton. It’s homecoming, and it’ll be their first true test of the season, just one week before they play Lowndes.
“Westlake is the toughest team that we’ve faced thus far this year without a shadow of a doubt. They’ve got about four or five guys committed to D-l especially on the defense,” Banks said. “They’re loaded, so this will be a good test for us to find out where we are in our progression towards the season. It comes down to we do our jobs, and that’s what you have to do to beat a team of this caliber.”
“I try to tell them, ‘You focus on homecoming if you want to, it’ll be a boring dance.’ So you better focus on the task at hand, which is getting better and getting ready for the (region) when it starts on October 3,” Banks said.
Banks offered his three keys to beating Westlake:
Make Westlake one-dimensional
“Be able to perceive which quarterback they’re gonna trot out, and see how good he is at trying to beat us,” Banks said. “Making them one-dimensional is the first thing we wanna do on defense.”
“It’ll be the first time we saw a three-man front in a game. Eastside ran a three-man front, but this’ll be our first time playing a 3-4 in a real game,” Banks said. “Will the offensive line be able to block the different stunts they bring their way? If they can block those stunts then (Romario Johnson) Ray-J will have time to distribute the ball as he needs to.”
“Homecoming is for the fans and it’s for them on Saturday night, but it’s not to be worried about Friday night at 7:30,” Banks said. “I know they wanna win on homecoming, we lost last year to Lovejoy. I’m sure the seniors wanna go out with a bang, but that can’t be the focus. The focus has to be taking care of business against Westlake.”