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Newton football turning 'bye week' into 'work week' ahead of region opener
NHS Work Week Feature
Rams defenders make the tackle during Newton's 27-12 win over Westlake. - photo by Andrew Mills

COVINGTON, Ga. - In the midst of their first 5-0 start since 1950, the Newton Rams football team had a week off before their Region 4-AAAAAAA opener against the Grayson Rams.

With the extra week to prepare, head coach Josh Skelton adopted the mantra of ‘work-week’, as they prepare to rewrite history.

“Work-week” comes ahead of their matchup with Grayson, who have bested Newton in all seven of their matchups. Despite the track record, Skelton feels that the mindset inside the locker room is right where it needs to be.

“It is about us [in this game],” Skelton said. “This team we have now, they do not care about who we are playing on Friday. They believe that playing group football will always win on Fridays.”

Coming off the 27-12 win over Westlake, Skelton and the coaching staff knew how they wanted to approach their extra week of preparation.

“We have worked very hard, these have been our longest practices. We have been adding an extra 30 minutes onto the practices,” Skelton said. “It is a lot of best-on-best all week. Our goal was to come out and bring the dog once again. I want to challenge each guy. We want to see those guys tired and having to keep pushing forward, it was an extremely successful week.”

According to Skelton, the way that the team has practiced since spring is one of the main contributors to the team’s 5-0 start.

“My belief is that, if I push the guys as hard as I possibly can every day and we practice as hard as we can, then we can have major success on Fridays,” Skelton said. “Our goal as coaches is to make all our practices ten-times harder than any game we play, and I believe that has led to our success.”

As hype and expectations follow those who succeed, Skelton has made the efforts of discussing those values and how the team should view it.

The mission for the team has been to, “Not take the poison.”

 “We always find ways to humble our guys in practice, but the main thing we have been telling our guys not to take the poison. We [tell them to] stay away from anything that tells you how good you are,” Skelton said. “Our goal has not been met yet; we are still pursuing our goal.”

This year’s Newton team has thrived in the same areas that allowed many of the Rams’ past teams to thrive.

It all starts with physicality.

“Physical, absolutely extremely physical football. When we are playing our style of ball, it is four quarters of extremely physical football,” Skelton said. “[The] Defense running to the ball, playing with a certain tempo and playing with a certain smash-mouth mentality [on offense]. That goes to how we block on the perimeter and taking pride in that.”

Beginning Region 4-AAAAAAA play, Skeleton believes the game will be won with special teams and the ability to capitalize on the turnovers.

It was the plays made on special teams that helped Newton down Westlake two weeks ago, in fact.

“We want to mentally play on the next play, we want to capitalize on every turnover the other team has,” Skelton said. “Our culture is made on special teams. Our guys want to contribute, they want to be on special teams.”

Newton(5-0) will look to take the momentum of “work-week” into gameday when they take on Grayson(4-1) Friday, September 29.