WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — When it rains, it pours.
On a wet and soggy Friday night at Freedom Field, Newton couldn’t wash away the negative impact of its miscues as it suffered a 21-7 loss to Houston County. The Rams have now dropped back-to-back games after starting the season 2-0.
Newton has scored just 14 points over the last eight quarters. While it takes execution in every phase of the game to sustain success over an extended period of time, the Rams’ offensive ineptitude has becoming a cause for concern this fall.
“We’ve got to find some answers on offense,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant Jr. said. “I know we’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, and that’s part of it, but we’ve got to do a better job up front. We’ve got to do a better job creating some explosive plays.”
Trailing by a touchdown midway through the third quarter, it appeared as though Newton’s luck was about to turn. A high snap on a punt forced the Bears to turn the ball over deep inside their own territory, giving a struggling Rams offense a short field to work with.
But Newton couldn’t capitalize on the mistake. Instead, the Rams put the ball on the ground just two plays later and the Bears recovered.
“I think that was the difference right there,” Grant said. “We had the opportunity to tie the ball game up, and then we shot ourselves in the foot by turning it over.”
After the teams swapped punts, Houston County took over once again on its own 23-yard line with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Bears proceeded to chip away with their power run game, milking nearly four minutes off the clock before senior running back Tyler Williams raced in for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.
Houston County leaned on its offensive line in the fourth quarter, pounding the ball on the ground to ice the game. But the boys in the trenches were also instrumental in setting the tone for the Bears early on Friday.
Incrementally advancing downfield with short run plays on its opening drive, Houston County’s offensive line eventually opened up a hole for junior running back Simeon Askew. Askew did the rest, juking past defenders and twirling out of a tackle on his way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.
The score gave the Bears a 7-0 lead with 6:56 to go in the first quarter.
Newton struggled to provide an answer offensively. The Rams’ drives repeatedly stalled out, ofttimes due to an inability to set themselves up for short-yardage conversions on third and fourth downs.
“We’re doing a horrible job on first down,” Grant said. “We’re just not getting anything on first down, and that’s putting us in some bad situations.”
With time winding down in the first half, it was Newton’s special teams — the unit integral in the Rams’ demise at McEachern last week — that stepped up. Newton blocked a punt inside the Houston County 20-yard line and senior Tyrell Floyd corralled the loose ball before trotting into the end zone for the score.
The touchdown evened things up on the scoreboard with 3:09 left in the first half. Unfortunately for Newton, however, that proved to be ample time for Houston County to recapture all momentum.
On the ensuing drive, Williams got loose for a 62-yard run that positioned the Bears in the red zone. Williams later finish the job, punching it in from three yards out to put Houston County in front, 14-7, with 40 seconds to go.
Newton will try to right the ship before beginning Region 4-AAAAAA play next week on the road against Parkview.
“The four ball games we’ve played up to this point — no matter what our record is — you throw them out of the window. None of those games are going to get you into the playoffs,” Grant said. “It’s these next five coming up that are going to be important to finding that playoff spot. That’s got to be the message.”