CONYERS, Ga. -- In a spring game that signified the ending of spring football, the Newton Rams traveled to Salem High School to take on the Seminoles. The energy from first-year head coach Camiel Grant’s Rams was apparent from the opening whistle as they took care of business, shutting out a young Salem squad 58-0.
It should be noted that Salem's roster has been decimated with graduation as just one starter returns on each side of the ball. But Grant said his charge to his team was to focus only on itself.
"The need that we had for this week was to come into (Tuesday night) with two goals," Grant said. "That's running and hitting. That was the standard we wanted to measure that game by. I didn't want them to look at the scoreboard. I didn't want them to look at the opponent. If you're not running and you're not hitting, there's gonna be a problem."
For the most part, Tuesday night, there was no problem.
Newton's up-tempo offensive style was vital as its first drive consisted of four total plays, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Neal Howard to Diondre Glover who skied over a Salem defender for the grab to give the Rams the early 7-0 lead.
Salem took over possession, looking to even the score, but Newton’s defense stood tall. Stuffing the Seminoles’ run for no gain on first down and again on second down, this time for a loss of yards.
On third and long, the Rams secured another stop, but not before Newton's Tamarian Baynes went down with an apparent lower-body injury.
A shanked punt by Salem gave the Rams the ball at the 44-yard line where a 5-yard run by Jerrol Hines set up a second and five on the 39-yard line.
Howard tossed his second touchdown pass when he corralled a high snap on second down and delivered a short pass in the flat to running back Quincy Cullins who ran between a pair of Salem defenders, juked one, stiff-armed another and broke one last tackle as he took it 43 yards for the score halfway through the first quarter.
After a three-and-out by Salem on its next possession, the Rams who started their drive at their own 11-yard line, ran only three plays before Josh Hardeman busted through for a big 65-yard touchdown run.
The next drive for the Rams featured Hines taking the ball in for a 32-yard score to put Newton up 28-0.
It was then that Salem engineered its longest drive of the game – six total plays – before an interception was thrown by Salem quarterback Daniel Scott resulted in a pick-six that was negated by a flag on the play.
With Michael Moreland in the game for his first series under center for the Rams, the Seminoles were able to get their first stop of the game. On fourth and long for Newton, a bad snap was recovered by Hines in the backfield as it led to a turnover on downs.
For a moment, it seemed as if Salem would be able to get on the board before the half, the Newton defense would have none of that. After forcing a 25-yard punt on fourth down, the Rams took over at the 50-yard line where Howard was able to deliver a solid pass to Glover who beat man coverage for a 50-yard touchdown – his second of the game.
The beginning of the second half, with the Rams up 35-0, saw both teams go scoreless until midway through the third quarter. At their own 16 on first down, the Seminoles fumbled a carry that Newton’s Cullins was able to scoop and take in for a score.
At 42-0, the Newton sideline, in an apparent jubilant mood, was well aware that they had thoroughly bested their competition and wasn’t being shy about it.
Salem’s offense heading into the fourth quarter continued to struggle to make progress, and its defense suffered a similar fate. Before the end of the frame, freshman Romeo [sic] Carson scored a touchdown on a 43-yard run.
With five minutes left in the game, Newton kicker Abdiel Velasquez nailed a 39-yard field goal to give Newton a 52-0 lead.
The game entirely in hand, Newton refused to let off the gas. Wanting to send a message that they were going to play until the final whistle, junior Lamarion Ewing ended the game with a walk-off touchdown run.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the night was the fact that Newton played nearly mistake-free football from the penalties aspect. That's major, considering Newton has often dogged itself in times past with penalties and unforced errors.
Despite the clean performance, Grant said decreasing penalties really wasn't something that's been stressed throughout the spring.
"I'm surprised about the lack of penalties," Grant said. "I'm happy, but I'm surprised. Believe it or not, we don't really talk about it a whole lot. We don't want them thinking about it. In practice, we don't do a whole lot of standing around after we commit a penalty. We just get after it and get to the next play."
Grant attributes it to his players being a bit more in shape at this point in the offseason.
"Penalties often come with fatigue," he said. "I think because we've been practicing a little faster than normal, and maybe because it was a cool night, our practice pace helped us for being in shape. We weren't fatigued in the game. Hopefully that's something we can continue to trend toward."
Now that spring is over, Grant and company will shift to evaluation mode before the dog days of summer begin.
"We'll sit down as a staff and plan out the first two or three weeks of summer, including what all we're going to focus on," Grant said. "We'll always be in the weight room. We'll always do our conditioning. We'll want to practice in the summer, but be more focused on fundamental things, particularly up front since we're young up front on both sides."
Grant insists it won't be all work and no play, though.
"We're going to work to balance the intensity of the work without getting too far ahead and burning out," he said. "We'll have some team outings planned to do some fun things away from football to take the edge off. We'll push hard for a little bit, then ease up and push again, just to make sure we're properly pacing ourselves as we head to the season."
*Gabriel Stovall contributed to this report.