COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton Rams just concluded what was no doubt an up and down 2022 season. They did, however, make it back to the playoffs after a year’s absence although it was short-lived with a 35-0 first-round loss to Marietta.
Nevertheless, head coach Camiel Grant Jr. — who recorded his fourth full season at the helm — acknowledged this season as a success.
“This is the most player-led and together team I’ve been around in my time at Newton,” Grant said. “The way the kids came in, bought in and fought through adversity. I think these young men learned a lot. Not the outcome you would hope for, but there’s a lot in this season that we can be happy about.”
Newton stormed out of the gate in August and early September going 3-0. The Rams had a one-point victory over Hapeville Charter to kick off the season. They followed that with a 48-6 win over crosstown rival Alcovy Tigers and a 12-0 triumph over the Eastside Eagles.
Then, the tides started changing as September progressed and October began. Newton endured a four-game losing streak.
It all began with a 31-21 road loss to McEachern, which was succeeded by another road defeat at Westlake. The worst loss Newton suffered was on homecoming when the Rams lost to Grayson 26-0.
But, something seemed to shift two weeks later when Brookwood came to town.
After falling behind to the Broncos 31-7 at halftime, the Rams nearly
completed a comeback losing by eight points.
Grant highlighted how the halftime intermission did the players some good.
“After dropping the first two region games, the players embraced, ‘Hey, it’s win or go home from this point on,’” Grant said. “The players decided coming into the second half that we don’t care what the score is, we’re going to play.”
The second half momentum carried over to Newton’s next road game at Parkview. The Rams played spoiler, defeating the Panthers 20-18. They then went back on the road and captured a 10-point victory over South Gwinnett.
Newton made it three-straight victories, downing Archer 19-11 at Sharp Stadium to conclude the regular season.
Going along with the roller coaster ride was Newton’s quarterback situation. By season’s end, the Rams played five different players as the gunslinger. But, when all was said and done, Grant and his staff pegged freshman Deron Benson as “the guy.”
In fact, Benson led the Rams to a 3-2 record while completing 56% of his passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns.
While the quarterback situation was fluid, the running and receiving corp was not.
Zion Johnson was a workhorse in the backfield all season long finishing his sophomore campaign with over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Junior wideout Marcus Calwise put together another notable season catching 32 passes, seven of which were touchdown receptions.
The Rams’ defense was a nuisance for opposing offenses, too.
Leading the charge upfront was Justin Benton with 42 tackles, three sacks and eight tackles for loss. JaMarcus Presley had 36 tackles while Kyle Veasley led the unit with two interceptions.
It was a team effort throughout to help the Rams right the ship and get back to their winning ways. And, even though the postseason was short-lived for Newton, Grant believes his team has a lot to build off of moving forward.
“If the kids who are returning can take this unit and continue to play together and be player-led, they can learn a lot,” Grant said. “This group did that and that’s going to be the biggest message is trying to instill that into this team.”