VALDOSTA, Ga. — Friday night's Newton loss to Lowndes was one of those games where you could fold up the stat book early, because it didn’t take long to know exactly how it was going to turn out.
The Newton Rams (3-1) made costly mistakes early and often and the No. 3 Lowndes Vikings (4-0) took advantage of those mistakes over and over again, until the final score spelled out the damage in grave detail.
Lowndes 57, Newton 0.
It was the kind of game where Newton coach Terrance Banks said his team’s emotional readiness and desire to stick it to a top five team in their place once again perhaps got the best of them early on. He also suggested that those looking for someone or something to place the blame on for the flat performance should start with him.
“I don’t really know about any of the other stuff. Maybe I didn’t do enough and I didn’t convey to the coaches enough to keep them in the game early,” Banks said. “They were really juiced up and ready to go, and I don’t think I did enough to let the coaches know how to help them do the job tonight.”
Of course, Newton was only able to get in a couple of days of practice this past week, thanks to the school cancellations from Tropical Storm Irma. When schools cancel due to inclement weather, typically all extracurricular activities are cancelled as well, including athletic competitions and practices.
But whatever the reason for Newton’s flatness, it was something that began early and was consistent throughout the game.
Newton would receive the opening kickoff, and after a good first down gain of six yards on a pass from quarterback Myron Middlebrooks to Mike Mathison, a low shotgun snap from the center to Middlebrooks caused a loss on the next play.
It was the first of almost a dozen bad center-to-quarterback exchanges during the game, and almost each time it threw a Newton drive off, including that first drive which ended in a punt.
Immediately, Lowndes capitalized, as on the first play, quarterback Michael Barrett through what looked like a wide receiver screen in the flat to Tayvonn Kyle. But instead of catching the ball and turning up field, Kyle stepped back and launched a perfect pass to a wide open Romikko Washington who strutted in the end zone for a 69-yard touchdown catch that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Newton would look to respond on its next drive when tailback Nuru Tinch got good first down yardage on his first carry. But after the five yard pick-up, he slipped on the rain-damped turf on his second carry, despite having a hole to run through, and lost yardage. Middlebrooks threw and incomplete pass on third down, and the Rams were punting again.
With good field position, Barrett would lead Lowndes on a 7-play, 52-yard drive that he punctuated with a three-yard touchdown run that put Newton behind 14-0 at the 6:19 mark of the first quarter.
Two more three-and-out Newton drives which featured a litany of penalties, slips, bad snaps and other miscues turned into quick points for the Vikings, as Barrett would rush for 158 yards on 13 attempts and four touchdowns. He also went 5 of 7 passing with 114 yards and a score. But all of Barrett’s running success came as he gashed the middle of the Rams’ defense.
“The coaches saw a weakness in the defense,” Barrett said. “They slanted away from the back, so we just kind of adjusted to that and the middle of the field was wide open. They didn’t adjust to it, so we just kept coming back to it and had great success with it all night.”
Banks said he and his coaching staff talked about such schematic changes, but seemingly before you knew it, the Vikings were up 42-0 on Newton before halftime.
“On defense, maybe I should of had another choice in scheming and the gaps to contain the QB,” Banks said. “We discussed it, but it got away from us as coaches, and at the end, it was what it was.”
Aside from defense, Banks also second guessed his own strategies with offense and special teams, saying if he had it to do over again, he would’ve definitely made some tweaks.
“I think if I could do it again, I would’ve helped Myron get more involved,” he said. “He was a little rattled this game. I would’ve done more, probably would’ve called some short passes, to help him get into the rhythm of the game. On special teams, I could’ve done more to put guys in right positions.”
The Rams surrendered 422 yards of total offense while only managing 141 themselves. Running back Nuru Tinch was largely contained as he gained just 45 yards on 15 carries.
Newton won’t have much time to feel sorry for itself, however, as the Rams will travel next week to face a solid Heritage-Conyers (3-1) squad that lost its first game of the season Friday in a 10-7 defeat to Dutchtown.
“Lowndes was just more physical than us,” Banks said. “This is a gut check. Some things I need to fix to help get us prepared. No matter if you win or lose, you’ve gotta get better. Our response determines what happens this season. It doesn’t get easier.”
After Heritage, Newton will begin Region 8-AAAAAAA play at South Gwinnett, get a bye, and then host top-five opponents, Archer and No. 1 Grayson. With such a tough slate ahead, Banks said he’s looking to see how his bunch will respond.
“The character and fight is what I asked them about at halftime,” he said. “Are we going to show effort when we get down? Are we going to tuck tail and run, or are we going to fight? If we’re worth anything as coaches, and I’m worth anything as a leader, they’ll fight. If they don’t, that says more about me as a coach than it does them.”