CONYERS, Ga. -- Coming off a tough blowout loss at the hands of No. 2 Lowndes last week, the Newton Rams were in need of a big win to propel them into region play.
They got it on Friday night as Newton raced out to a big first half lead and kept the momentum to a 48-17 route of Heritage in a regional rivalry matchup dubbed, “The Buddy Bowl.”
Newton coach Terrance Banks said the win was like a healing salve to his team after last week's loss.
"Well, we got some things as coaches we still gotta go back and fix," Banks said. "But a win is a win. After last week, the kids needed to experience good things, and so did the coaches."
Newton was paced by running back Nuru Tinch's 210 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and strengthened by a stingy defensive effort that featured forcing of four Heritage turnovers.
The Rams started the game off on the right track as the defense forced a quick three-and-out. The offense followed suit as scrambling Rams’ quarterback, Myron Middlebrooks found an open Robert Lewis across the middle for a 39-yard touchdown.
After another staunch defensive series, the Rams marched down the field on an 84-yard touchdown drive, punctuated by a Tinch's eight yard score to extend Newton's lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.
This quick-strike trend continued for Newton during the next drive, as it would most of the night, as the Middlebrooks to Lewis connection provided a third first quarter score.
Heritage finally got on the board when senior quarterback, Caleb Pruitt found receiver Jordan Young for an 18-yard TD.
But the Rams answered back promptly on a more methodical, run-heavy scoring drive that ended when Tinch snuck through an opening on the left side of the line and strolled into the end zone from six yards out for his second score of the game, putting the Rams up 27-7.
This is when the Newton defense started forcing turnovers. First, it was senior defensive back, Rod Kirkland who slid into an under thrown Pruitt pass for an interception. The Rams failed to capitalize on the take away, and punted. But on the third play of the Patriots' next drive, safety Khalil Wilcox hauled in another awry Pruitt pass for another pick.
"Our defense did some good things," Banks said. "Not a lot of blown assignments tonight. But most importantly, our defensive coordinator preaches all 11 guys to the ball. He preaches takeaways, and they did a lot of what he preached about, so that's good to see."
This turnover would not be in vain as a few plays later, Tinch exploded through the line and flew untouched into the end zone from 59 yards out, extending the Rams' lead to 34-7 at halftime.
Opening the second half, Tinch made a rare mistake and fumbled, giving the Patriots the ball in Rams territory. But the ball would not stay away from the Rams for long as senior Elija Godwin intercepted a would-be touchdown pass for the team's third pick of the night.
Tinch would quickly redeem himself from the previous drive's mishap as he popped off a 60-yard run, setting up a one-yard score, his fourth touchdown of the night.
Banks said he was pleased at the way Tinch approached Friday's game, after being limited to less than 50 yards at Lowndes the week before.
"Nuru, he's our horse," Banks said. "We give him the ball a lot. Tonight, the line gave him creases and he did the rest. We saw him getting his legs back after last week. He was real hungry, and I'm proud of the way he attacked and how the offensive line blocked for him. It was real good to see those guys get back into sync, and we knew they could, and we did that."
Middlebrooks would put up the Rams’ final points of the night with a 26-yard pass that increased the score to 48-10. Middlebrooks finished the night with 175 passing yards and three scoring tosses to go along with 81 yards on the ground. The majority of his passes went to receiver Robert Lewis, who had six catches for 95 yards and two scores.
The Patriots scored a late touchdown, to provide the final margin, but it where it was a game where the outcome never seemed to be in doubt, which was the kind of performance Banks hoped his team would have as Region 8-AAAAAA play begins next week with a trip to South Gwinnett. He seemed unwilling to allow his team to be complacent with its Friday not performance, however.
"We got some stuff to work on to get ready for next week," Banks said.