The Newton Rams (3-7, 2-5 Region 2-AAAAA) played Luella High's Lions (7-3, 4-3) Friday at Locust Grove with hopes of making the playoffs. Instead, the Lions won 13-0 and a shot in the playoffs for the first time in school history, while Newton lost its chance at the postseason.
Because Stephenson beat Douglass on the same night, the Rams would have gone onto the playoffs had they been able to take down Luella. While Newton did a good job defensively, it had trouble with its offense and didn't manage to score on the home team at all.
Going into the game, Newton's head coach Nick Collins was most concerned about his team's ability to keep possession of the ball and avoid turnovers. Rams quarterback Demetrius McCray did well to stop his opponents from nearly scoring on three separate occasions, but ultimately, Luella was able to gain the yards they needed to win, bringing Newton's season to a close.
The game seemed hopeful for Newton at the start of the first quarter as Luella, who had possession, quickly turned the ball over to the Rams without gaining a first down. The Rams almost immediately got their first down with 10:23 remaining when Ramardo Stewart carried the ball 8 yards to the 42. But that dominance didn’t last very long, and the team was forced to punt on fourth down.
Even though they were on third down and needed 85 yards to make a touchdown, the Lions pulled it off with 6:44 left in the first quarter. Luella’s Detrick Bonner caught a 50-yard pass and ran the rest of the way to the end zone, making the score 7-0 Luella with the PAT.
Right before the close of the of the first quarter, the Rams gained 50 yards thanks mostly to a few strong runs by sophomore DJ Hill, and they were still had possession at the start of the second quarter.
Coming into that quarter, however, Newton’s offense took a turn for the worst. From 24 yards away from scoring, Quinton Pooler looked confident as he carried the ball to the 12 and picking up a first down a mere 11 seconds into the quarter.Even after being pushed back 5 yards, McCray managed to run the ball to the 8- yard line on third down.
But a penalty pushed the Rams back to the 13-yard line, leaving them in need of 11 yards on fourth down. It would be as close to scoring as Newton would get. The Rams couldn’t get their offensive game together, and after an incomplete pass, Luella took over on downs.
"Offensively, we just didn’t do the things we needed to do," Collins said. "Defensively, I felt like [my team] really stepped up and did a good job."
Throughout the game, Newton’s defense held Luella off several times when the Lions were on the brink of scoring. In the second quarter, McCray intercepted a pass right at the end zone and drove it back 29 yards to give the Rams possession. But once again, the Rams’ offense couldn’t match its defense and after an incomplete pass, the ball went back to Luella with 25 seconds left in the second quarter.
Luella took full advantage of its possession in the short bit of time, making it to the 21 where with less than two seconds in the half, Kyle Dickey kicked a 38-yard field goal to put the Lions up 10-0 at halftime.
In an otherwise uneventful third quarter, Luella proved it was serious about making it to the playoffs when it scored yet another field goal, bringing the final score of the game to 13-0 Luella with 3:54 left.
In the fourth quarter, Newton was able to keep the Lions from scoring again when the Rams defense forced another interception near the end zone. If the Rams were offensively as spot on as they were defensively, they might have ended up going to the playoffs.
"That was the goal," Collins said of going to the playoffs. He stated that his team’s mistake was letting their opponents control their destiny.
"We still got a very young team. We have a ways to go," he said. "The playoffs need to be a goal for next year."