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PREP FOOTBALL: Grant reflects on Rams season, looks ahead to 2022
Rams rejoice - 082221
Rams rejoice Friday night after Newton converts a PAT to defeat Langston Hughes 7-6 in overtime. The Rams (1-0) return home to Sharp Stadium next week to face off against county rival Alcovy (0-1). (Anthony Banks | The Covington News)

COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton Rams’ football season ended Nov. 5 in a 13-6 loss against South Gwinnett — a loss that gave South Gwinnett ownership of the tiebreaker to make Newton the odd man out for the state playoffs. 

With the loss, the Rams finished 2021 at 4-5 overall with a 1-3 record in Region 4-AAAAAAA. Losing four straight to end the season attributed to the Rams’ third losing season in the past four years. 

Friday’s loss also snapped a nine-year streak of Newton qualifying for the state playoffs. 

Though it was a heartbreaking end to the season, head coach Camiel Grant Jr. stressed that it wasn’t for lack of effort from the players. 

“As a staff, we really felt like there was nothing more we could’ve asked from them that they didn’t give us,” Grant said. “Then, I told them after the game [on Friday] that failures are not permanent. Success and failure ride on the same train. And we have to take it for an opportunity to learn.” 

There were some bright spots early in the season for the Rams, though. 

It started with the Rams defeating Langston Hughes 7-6 after entering overtime 0-0. Two weeks later, Newton downed crosstown rival Eastside 27-7 for the third year in a row. After its first regularly scheduled bye week, Newton went on the road and defeated a tough McEachern team 39-21. 

After suffering their first loss of the year against Houston County, the Rams came back home on Sept. 24 and came out on top against Parkview. 

Following that week, the Rams earned its first top-10 ranking in over 11 years. They were ranked No. 9 in Class AAAAAAA by Georgia High School Football Daily on Sept. 20, 2021. 

Grant stressed how the underclassmen returning next season can use the early season success to their advantage. 

“When you play a lot of underclassmen, it can be a blessing or a curse,” Grant said. “For us, the blessing is they now have an expectation of how we’re supposed to play. Even those losses, they were close games and we were in them. This group will now have a clear understanding of what our competition level is and I think that’ll be a huge bonus.” 

Now, the Rams’ attention shifts to next season. 

Preparations for 2022 will begin in the coming months to improve upon this year’s results. 

Grant and his staff look to hit the ground running, too. 

“First, we need to examine those things that kept us from being successful,” Grant said. “Then, sitting down with our administration, even on the county level, and talking about how we can close the gap in terms of resources and facilities at the 7A level. With the players, each group dialing in on areas deficiencies in our offseason program. We’ll focus in on fixing the nuts and bolts of our team position-by-position.”