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PREP FOOTBALL: Five Things learned from Grayson at Newton
Newton Football
Senior running back Nuru Tinch and sophomore quarterback Neal Howard converse with each other before a play during Friday night's Newton-Grayson game. Howard made his first career start against the state's third-ranked team. - photo by Anthony Banks

Five things learned from Grayson vs. Newton

Tyler Williams

twilliams@covnews.com

Coming off a bye week after a heartbreaking loss to No. 2 Archer, the Newton Rams wanted to come out with a momentous win against the Rams of Grayson High school. Last week, Archer knocked off the nationally ranked Rams 6-3, making the game against Newton one where they were looking to bounce back. They did that and more against a Newton squad that was without its starting quarterback, Myron Middlebrooks, earning a 41-16 victory before their bye week. Here are five things I learned in this Region 8-AAAAAAA contest.

1. The penalties in this game…were grueling. Thirty-four was the magic number. There were 34 combined penalties in this game. Those penalties totaled more than 350 yards. This onslaught of flags started in the first quarter with several personal foul calls as the teams were getting physical with each other. The yellow cloths turned the first quarter into an hour and five-minute affair. “There is a flag on the play” could’ve been said an unbelievable amount of times. Some of them were in Newton’s favor, some were for Grayson. The moral of this observation was that the flag counter was off the charts, and it was a long game because of the insane number of flags.

2. The Rams are really missing Middlebrooks. After suffering a broken collarbone against Archer, Middlebrooks continues to be out of action. With Middlebrooks out, the Rams become somewhat one dimensional, and opposing defenses can load the box with ease to stop the run. Not to take away from the budding ability of sophomore quarterback Neal Howard. It is tough to be thrown such a spot and be expected to produce big plays, especially against the defending 7A champs. Howard did throw a touchdown pass Friday and completed quite a few big passing plays, but he is still trying to get settled into that role. Until then, the Rams may have to rely on the ground game heavily. To that end, Banks said they’ll be working to get senior RB Nuru Tinch back to full health. Tinch missed much of the second half with a nagging injury, but Banks expects to have him back to full strength for the playoffs.

3. Defense will help keep Newton ahead in their final two games. Despite the offensive struggles, the Rams did force a few Grayson takeaways. After Grayson scored on a 70-yard screen pass in the first play from scrimmage, the Newton defense tightened up. They only allowed 41 points because of exhaustion from being on the field a lot during the game. Ten of those points were in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter as well. From here, the Rams do not face an offense that is on Grayson’s level, so the defense should be able to keep teams out of the game.

4. Heartbreak hotel is unfortunately open for business. I say this with the upmost empathy for Newton. This season has been a tough one for the Rams. After the debacle that took place at Lowndes in week four of the season, the Rams still looked poised to compete for the Region crown. They were on the verge of upsetting Archer handily before Middlebrooks got injured. Against Grayson, they never looked overmatched while down only two scores before Nuru Tinch was taken out of the game for a hamstring injury. This team has been faced with so much adversity to this point. They could easily be 7-1 or 6-2 right about now, but unfortunate events have put their chances of winning the region out of the question.

5. Don’t give up, Newton fans. This team is still going to the playoffs. I said it, and I mean it. Despite injuries and setbacks, there is still loads of talent on this team. They have two games remaining against Shiloh and Rockdale, both of which are easily winnable games. I believe this team finishes 7-3 and makes the playoffs, where hopefully they can get healthy and focus in on a potential playoff run in what should be a wide open Class AAAAAAA.