The Newton Rams are looking for some improvements after a 32-0 loss to Eastside in week one, but will have to best a challenging opponent to do so.
Newton, in its first season in Class AAAAAA, the state's biggest classification, travels to Lowndes, the state's No. 6 ranked team, today for an 8 p.m. showdown in south Georgia.
The Vikings have won five state championships, including 2004, 2005 and 2007. Last year, Lowndes reached the second round of the state playoffs, falling to Grayson 25-17.
Defensively, the Vikings run a 5-2 formation with five defensive lineman, while they are a Wing-T team on offense with three players in the backfield.
In its 50-23 win over Luella, Lowndes was led by Nick Burgman with 144 yards on 11 carries. In all, the Vikings ran the ball with 12 different players, including Tevin Brown with 92 yards on 12 carries and Ahman Brown with 62 yards on eight carries.
"Everybody knows they're going to be a good team," Newton coach Cortez Allen said. "They have a great program and they play championship football.
"We're going to go down and compete and we're going to go down expecting to win the ball game, like every other game."
Newton's successes in week one came on the defensive side of the ball, and Allen is looking for the Rams' defense to once again lead the way.
According to Allen, Newton held the Class AAAA Eastside Eagles to 72 yards, or about 1.82 per carry, and to just 27 percent passing.
"I was very pleased with our effort on defense," Allen said.
A big reason for the defensive strength of last Friday night was senior outside linebacker Anthony Durham.
"He did an outstanding job and we look for him to continue to play big for us this year," Allen said. We're just glad to have him and very proud of his efforts on Friday night."
While Newton's defense isn't clashing with the Vikings' running attack the Rams will be looking to improve on its offensive performance from week one, including maintaining possession.
"Obvious things to fix are we're not turning the ball over," Allen said. "We had a hard time hanging on to the football and didn't do a good job of being prepared in the passing game."
Sophomore Kemani Pitman gets his second start at quarterback for the Rams in the 9,000-seat capacity Martin Stadium.
Pitman struggled in his first game, going 9 of 25 for 75 yards with two interceptions. But he got adjusted to the big crowds of high school football as Sharp Stadium was filled with both Newton and Eastside fans.
"He improved and I know that's tough to understand from a lot of people's perspective, but he did some things better than he did a couple of weeks ago," Allen said.
While Pitman is working on improvements, so is his coaching staff, who Allen feels put him in too many situations where he needed to come up with a play.
"We understand when you're trying to force a young quarterback to make plays, that's tough," Allen said. "We don't want Kemani to have to win games for us, we want him to be a game manager and execute in the passing game - situations that are encouraging to him."
It's the first of two straight trips to Lowndes County as Newton visits the nation's most winningest program in Valdosta, on Sept. 21. Heading to south Georgia the first time, the Rams will leave Newton at 9 a.m. before stopping at Mercer University and Valdosta State University for a chance for the players to visit the college campuses.
That's the only visiting Allen feels his team will do on the trip, as they are going to Lowndes to try to win a game not revel in its winning tradition.
"We're confident we belong on the field with them," Allen said. "We're going to go out there and try to make sure we execute in all three phase of the game."