The Newton High School football team got its first taste of region play when the Souath Gwinnett Comets came to town on Friday, and it was Preston Taylor who gave the Rams their first region 8-AAAAAAA win. Down two points with six seconds remaining in the game, the kicker nailed a 38-yard field goal to give Newton a 13-12 victory.
“We knew he had it in him,” said Newton head coach Terrance Banks. “He just had to believe, and he finally believed. He nailed two beautiful kicks. I’m so proud of him, I can’t even put it into words.”
Taylor’s performance definitely saved the Rams (4-1-1), who trailed for the majority of the second half. Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter, with neither team able to put points on the scoreboard. Quarterback Blake Brock stepped in for an injured Myron Middlebrooks in the game, but he was only able to complete two passes in the first quarter.
The second quarter was equally slow. Both teams appeared lifeless on offense, but it was the Rams’ penalties that helped push South Gwinnett (4-2) down the field multiple times. The Comets scored the first touchdown of the game with 3:31 left in the first half. The Rams earned two more possessions before the clock winded down, but it was the Comets who scored again off a field goal when Newton failed to score again.
Down 9-0 at the start of the third, the Rams came out gunning. After the Comets went three and out on the first possession of the quarter, Newton got the ball back and moved within South Gwinnett territory. On fourth-and-7, a 14-yard Brock pass to Michael Mathison saved Newton’s possession. After a near fumble, Brock recovered and ran the ball 20 yards for a Newton touchdown to bring the score to 9-7.
Penalties started to get the best of Newton again as two in a row pushed the Comets down to the red zone in Rams territory on the next possession, but a fumble recovery by senior Jaquan Henderson got the ball back for Newton. The Rams took over at their own 12-yard line, and Brock turned up the heat, running the ball down to South Gwinnett’s end of the field.
The Rams got down to the 25 yard-line, but three incomplete passes in a row after a 9-yard run by Adarius Thomas caused the Rams to turn the ball over on downs. Another three-and-out by the Comets gave the ball back to Newton as the third quarter came to a close, giving the Rams a chance to try again.
After the Rams failed to score on their first possession of the fourth, Jeremiah Bundrage recovered another Comet fumble to regain the ball at the 20-yard line. A 30-yard field goal by Taylor then gave the Rams their first lead of the game with 9:01 left in the game.
Down 10-9 with 47 seconds left to play, South Gwinnett’s Dawson Newman scored a 33-yard field goal to put the Comets up two, causing the South Gwinnett sidelines to celebrate. Mathison then ran the ball down to the Comet 47-yard line on the next kick, quickly hushing the opposing crowd, and two back-to-back carries by Thomas brought the Rams to the 21-yard line. That’s when Taylor stepped in to win the game.
Brock played his first full game at quarterback, and after a shaky first half, he helped carry his team to victory.
“He was the next man up,” Banks said of Brock. “He knew it was his chance, and he went to work. He did great. Once he settled down in the second half, he played a heck of a game.”
The Rams will now get deep into region play, facing football heavyweight Grayson next week on Oct. 7. The Rams will need the fight they showed on Friday in order to remain undefeated in the region.
“We tell them to ignore the circumstances,” Banks said. “We have been trailing in every game this year. Not one person on this team was scared. We have multiple starters hurt, but that’s the fight that they’re going to bring to every game.”