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PREP FOOTBALL: Coach Terrance Banks still sees Newton QB battle as work in progress
LT Stowers
Newton quarterback LT Stowers drops back to throw a pass in the Rams' 27-20 loss to Eastside Friday. Stowers and junior Neal Howard alternated almost every series during the second half of Friday's game. - photo by Anthony Banks

COVINGTON, Ga. — Terrance Banks seems to know his Newton Rams fan base well, and he had a message for it after the Rams fell 27-20 to rival Eastside Friday night. 

“Look, I know my fans are not gonna like what I’m saying,” Banks said. “I know they’ll be upset with me as the head coach. But at the end of the day, on September 28, we’ll be 0-0, so we will have to be ready for that moment.” 

Banks was referring to that date as being the start of the Region 8-AAAAAAA schedule — the set of games that truly determines the playoff picture for any Georgia high school football team. 

As for what he forecasted Newton fans to be unhappy with? Well, that would be the quarterback situation. 

Since the beginning of summer, it’s been a known fact that with junior Neal Howard returning and Mississippi senior transfer LT Stowers arriving, the quarterback situation at Newton would be a little fluid, and a battle for a full-time starter would ensue. And as with most quarterback battles, the ideal situation is to probably have a starter determined by a team’s season opener. 

However, going into Week 3, Newton’s signal caller situation still seems to be as wide open as it was at the beginning of the summer — at least that seems to be the case, judging by the way both Howard and Stowers were handled Friday night. 

Howard finished 11-of-20 passing with 162 yards and a touchdown. But he threw two critical interceptions, including one on a 3rd-and-goal situation toward the end of the game that came a couple of plays after he overthrew a wide open Jerrol Hines in the end zone for what would’ve been a game-tying touchdown. 

Meanwhile, Stowers completed 8 of his 15 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown pass to Robert Lewis, while walking away from the game with no picks. 

And while there were times, Banks said, that he thought about sticking with one through the duration of the game, he also stated that he wanted to use the time to keep getting his quarterbacks, along with the rest of the team, ready for the games that truly count. 

“Yes, I am disappointed,” he said, “And yes, I know it sucks to lose. It sucks to lose to Eastside. However, we still have to prepare ourselves for that moment when we begin region play. So we’ll go back to work with those guys on Monday to position ourselves for where we need to be.” 

Beyond that, Banks also acknowledged that offensive rhythm was a problem Friday. 

“We don’t have an identity on offense right now, as you can see,” Banks said. “And it’s my job, with my coaches, to figure that out. And we’ll do our jobs to figure it out. But tonight, it just wasn’t our night.” 

Some of the manifestation of that lack of identity could be seen, not just in the turnovers, but also the penalties. Newton had over a dozen penalties for the game, including eight in the second half alone, and several at crucial moments, including a couple that pushed Newton out of red zone opportunities. 

“Two things that’s key to win a game like that,” Banks said. “One, you’ve gotta win the turnover battle. We had the pick on the 1-yard line, and then we had another pick. Eastside didn’t have any turnovers. Great job. But then, you have to score in the red zone. Because of the mistakes, we were unable to, and they did. So those two things you have to do, and we didn’t do that.” 

Newton will have a bye week to figure it all out this coming week before hosting Arabia Mountain on September 7 and traveling to Class AAAAA No. 2 Buford on September 14.