On Friday evening a little after 6 p.m. Newton students, parents and fans came out to watch the Rams hold their blue and white game, which is more of a glorified practice for people to come and watch than anything.
The first team’s play was mostly sloppy, which could easily be due to rust. There were fumbled handoffs, a couple overthrown passes and some dropped balls. The running game looked good at times with Augustus Murray and Kurt Taylor Jr. The defense played well and scored one defensive touchdown off of a fumble recovery.
In the end, none of this will matter come August. Rams’ head coach Terrance Banks just views the game as a chance for the players to get in front of their peers and have fun. The real work begins when the Rams hit the weight room this summer, an area Banks says they need to improve if they’re not going to get ran over in the trenches like at the end of the game against Etowah.
Last year during the summer Banks said the team had a long way to go if they were going to compete at a high level, that same team managed to become one of the final eight teams in the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
“We’re very humble and hungry,” Banks said. “It’s hard to play 12-plus games, man. It’s hard. So the thing this year is take it 1-0. Somebody contacted me and one of the coaches said you not the hunters anymore, you’re the hunted. And I said, maybe so, but we’re just gonna take it one day at a time and if we win every day we can play for a long time.”
With a target on their back, Newton might have gone from underdog hero to one of the most wanted matchups.
The Rams will enter the 2015-2016 season without a key contributors such as Davonta Jones, Vinny Jengelly, A.J. Palomino and Nuka Yobo. However, the Rams still have talent such as rising senior leader Romario Johnson, Deandre Huff and an influx of freshman talent with maybe a player or two that could take somebody’s position or become a part of the rotation.
“It’s a chance for new kids to shine. We got the leader of our team back as a senior (Johnson), he’s got a lot of guys returning in that nucleus on offense right now that played with him. Somebody else will have to step up and the same on defense,” Banks said.
“We just gotta continue to get better and as they go others come and continue the cycle to where the good thing is and the most important thing even though we’re taking it one day at a time is the fact that everybody in our program has only been to the playoffs. They don’t know anything else besides going to the playoffs so their expectations can not be anything less because they don’t know what it’s like not to play 11 games,” he concluded.
Banks is entering his third year at the helm and now that the seniors are gone, each class other than the freshmen all have playoff experience, which will prove valuable in the long run. On May 26 the Rams really begin their journey for a state championship.
“Champions are made in all of them days when there’s nobody around, there’s nobody watching and it’s 8 a.m. and nobody’s here and none of these people are worried about Newton football. So that’s when champions are made. Everything else is a byproduct of what you do with the hard work when nobody’s here. So we’re not taking no rest. We gonna finish the school year and the day after Memorial Day we’re trying to get to the money as the kids tell me,” Banks said.
After the game Banks talked to his team about next season, keeping the NewRock trophy, beating Alcovy, but most importantly he talked them about keeping their grades up. Banks told the team without at least a 2.3 GPA, none of them would play D-1 football. “Do not bring me any 79s,” Banks told his team.
“The No. 1 goal in Newton football is that every person that plays graduates from high school. That’s the No. 1 goal. That’s why I stay on my kids about grades. I’m here to produce better husbands, fathers, brothers and so that's our No. 1 goal,” Banks added. “If you stay on top of your grades then if you win and if you work hard college opportunities come with other things. NCAA has changed the rules to get into college as far as athletics so we don’t prescribe to that dumb jock scenario here at Newton. We got two rising seniors who are top-20 in this class with 4.0 GPAs so that’s what we strive to be and that’s what we gone keep pushing.”