The Newton High School football team suffered its first loss of the season Friday night in a game between two top-10 teams that came down to the final minutes of play.
The host, No. 8-ranked Lowndes High, was able to control the final minutes and pick up 42-34 victory against Newton at Martin Stadium.
Following a 7-yard touchdown pass from Myron Middlebrooks to Jeremiah Holloman, the No. 7 ranked Newton Rams were set to tie it at 35. However, a low snap on the extra point allowed Lowndes’ Tyson Harris time to fly in and get a hand on Taylor’s kick, leaving it short and giving Lowndes the ball back with the lead.
“I just wanted to make it up,” said Harris, who had one of Lowndes’ three fumbles. “I asked my coach right before the kicked, ‘Please send me to block it.’ He gave me the opportunity and it was nothing but God.
“I made a big play and I’m blessed to say I made it.”
Despite trailing, Newton still had plenty of time but couldn’t capitalize on a late Lowndes mistake.
After the Vikings drove the length of the field, Lowndes’ Xavier Jenkins fumbled just before reaching the goal line and couldn’t recover before the ball bounced through the end zone for a touchback with 7 minutes left. Newton, though, was forced to punt after nearing midfield, giving the ball back to Lowndes with 5:44 to go.
That’s when Lowndes didn’t misstep. Facing a third-and-8 from his own 22 following a false start, Barrett found tight end Marcus Gary for 23 yards and after an 8-yard pass to Jenkins, Tisdale carried the next six times to reach the Rams’ 8.
There, on fourth down, Barrett found pay dirt with 50 seconds left.
“Really what was just in my mind was hold onto the ball, get the first down and let’s push it on in,” he said.
Lowndes coach Randy McPherson added: “All I knew is, my calculator said if I scored and made the extra point, we had an eight-point lead.”
Newton reached Lowndes’ territory before Middlebrooks’ final heave was knocked away at the goal line.
Middlebrooks finished 21-for-36 passing for 232 yards and rushed for 60 more.
Newton, however, allowed 485 yards on just 51 offensive snaps, and couldn’t turn three Vikings’ fumbles deep in Rams’ territory to the victory.
Newton also stopped Lowndes on downs inside the Rams’ 5-yard line and recovered a kickoff that helped it rally in the second half.
“We should have had three more touchdowns and it never should have been so dramatic,” McPherson said. “But you can’t take anything away from coach (Terrance) Banks and Newton. They came in here and they never quit, either. They were right down to the wire.
“What a game.”
The late kickoff recovery helped set up Newton’s touchdown that pulled the Rams within one.
After pulling within 35-28 on a 15-yard Myron Middlebrooks touchdown pass to Dante Johnson, Preston Taylor’s ensuing kickoff landed short of the Vikings’ deep returners and just died near the 20-yard line. The Rams emerged from the scrum with the ball at the Lowndes 18 with just 3 seconds left in the third quarter.
Five plays later Middlebrooks found Holloman for the 7-yard score.
Lowndes wasted little time to seize control early. One play after a bad punt snap gave the Vikings the ball at the Newton 13, Harris bowled over a Ram defender on his way to the end zone and Lowndes led 7-0 with less than three minutes gone. Three minutes later, Tisdale, who rushed for 104 yards, scored the first of his two touchdowns from 13 yards out to make it 13-0.
After Newton answered with a 2-yard Middlebrooks touchdown pass to Tyrese Peacock, Jenkins hauled in a 47-yard scoring pass from Barrett, who completed 15 of 17 passes for 246 yards. Jenkins had seven catches for 107 yards.
After Travis Tisdale’s second TD run pushed Lowndes’ lead to 28-7, Holloman raced 77 yards on a fake punt before Barrett found Harris from 27 yards out for a 35-14 lead. But Barrett, who also rushed for 114 yards, fumbled on Lowndes’ next drive and Newton capitalized with a 21-yard Middlebrooks scoring toss to Johnson with 5 seconds left in the half. Johnson had eight catches for 159 yards.
The Vikings then reached Newton’s 1-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter before being denied and Harris fumbled at Newton’s 7 following a 27-yard catch on the Vikings’ ensuing drive to help Newton continue its rally.
Newton will return to Sharp Stadium to host Heritage in the Rams homecoming game Friday, Sept. 23.