Newton's 2012 football season officially begins Aug. 31 against Eastside, but the Kemani Pitman era may have gotten started on Saturday.
The Rams welcomed Southwest DeKalb to Sharp Stadium for a preseason exhibition game Saturday night, marking the starting debut of the sophomore Pitman.
The score may have not favored the home team with the Rams losing 20-8, but Newton Coach Cortez Allen feels that it was still a success. A large part of that success is due to Pitman.
"He played pretty well; he had a couple of turnovers that we have to overcome but other than that we were very excited about the way he played and handled himself throughout the game," Allen said.
Pitman showed good velocity on his throws and hit several targets in stride. One of those was junior Taylor Hawkins, who Pitman hit for a 73-yard touchdown for Newton's only offensive score.
"He is ahead of what I thought he would be able to do, just in his control of the game," Allen said. "His poise as a young guy; he really showed that throughout most parts of the game."
Allen said Pitman wasn't the only bright spot for the Rams that night as several youngsters stepped in for eight projected starters who missed the game due to injury.
"That was one of the things that contributed to the loss," Allen said. "But we saw some great things from some areas where we were concerned."
Newton played without two starting wide receivers, an offensive lineman, defensive lineman, its starting middle linebacker, starting fullback and its starting punter.
Without those players, Allen was able to see some new faces get playing time, among those was sophomore linebacker A.J. Palomino.
"A.J. Palomino really stepped up for us at linebacker," Allen said. "He added some great depth at linebacker for us. We're pretty pleased with our defense."
The defense came up with a safety for Newton's other two points, and forced a fumble that Robbie Wallace returned 47 yards to the Southwest DeKalb 1-yard line.
The offense, however, was not able to punch it in on any of the four tries, giving Allen his one major displeasure with the Rams' performance.
"Not being able to get it in cleanly, that was the biggest disappointment in the ball game," Allen said.
The offensive line, which couldn't make a hole big enough to move one yard for the Rams score after the fumble recovery, is one of the facets that Newton will be working on before its regular season opener on Aug. 31.
"We've got to improve on our offensive line. We have to get a little better and do a better job of using our hands," Allen said.
The Rams will also benefit from getting back its injured players, with most of them expected to be back in uniform for the opener.
"Getting those guys back from injuries at wide receiver is going to help us some," Allen said. "The routes will get crisper because we'll get two of our seniors back."
Newton will stay at Sharp for the opener facing cross-town rival Eastside at 7:30 to begin the 2012 schedule.
"Overall, I'm very pleased with the effort the kids gave us on Saturday," Allen said. "It really confirmed things for us and got us excited about some things to come."