COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton Rams (5-3 overall, 1-2 region) gave the favorited Grayson Rams (7-1, 3-0) everything they could but fell just short by a score of 23-14 in a high school football game Friday night.
This was not a night that either offensive unit should be proud of as both groups struggled to earn positive yardage in the first half.
Going into halftime, the Grayson Rams only had 138 yards of total offense while the Newton Rams only had 125 yards of total offense.
Both teams got on the board late in the first half with plays that were highlighted by rare significant gains.
The Grayson Rams scored first on a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback C.J. Dixon to running back Phil Mafah. Grayson got into scoring position off a long 30-yard run by running back Lafayette Gurvin Jr.
Gurvin came into the game with 800 total yards rushing, but Newton did an excellent job of keeping him at bay with their stout defensive front holding him to 43 yards in the first half.
“Up until the end, they played extremely well,” Grant said. “In that first half, they lived on our side of the field, and the defense really responded to only give up 14. That first half was tremendous effort by them.”
Newton immediately answered Grayson’s touchdown with one of their own as their first play after the kickoff was a 71-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Neal Howard to wide receiver Nyland Green.
In soft coverage, Green took a quick 5-yard slant and turned it upfield for a long touchdown at the 1:02 mark. The point after would be good, and both Rams teams would walk into the locker room with 7 points.
Green’s 71-yard touchdown catch plus his early interception led to a solid opening half for the junior cornerback. Green would finish off his impactful night with 83 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown and one interception on defense.
Grayson’s offense continued to have trouble, but they broke loose for a long touchdown run by Mafah.
Mafah took the ball right up the guy and came free for a 71-yard touchdown run that score would put Grayson on top for the remainder of the game.
The Newton offense seemed to be moving the ball well, but in the second half, they struggled to get into scoring position. In the Rams’ last game, head coach Camiel Grant Jr. mentioned how penalties seemed to kill the Rams offensive drives; he was pleased that was not the case in this game.
“I think that was really the story of the game; we did a really good job of minimizing those penalties,” Grant said. “I feel like that told more of the story of the game than those couple of runs that they had.”
Despite those few break-away runs that Grant mentioned, Newton would continue to truncate the Grayson offense.
Grayson was forced to punt on their ensuing drive, but this punt would spell trouble for Newton as they were pinned deep on their own-1 yard line.
After a few runs of no gain, Newton would elect to pass the ball, and Howard was sacked for a safety.
With a 16-7 lead and Grayson receiving the ball after the safety, Newton would have a tough road for a comeback.
The road got more robust for the Rams as Mafah broke loose again for a 38-yard touchdown this time that would put the game on ice. Mafah seemed to get going in the second half and ended up with an impressive rushing night with 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Down 23-7 in the early stages of the final quarter, this Newton Rams team would not stop fighting and would drive down the field and get in the end zone.
It was Howard who took it in this time on a 10-yard touchdown run with 6:17 left to play. The continual fight by the Rams is something that Grant was proud of on the evening, but felt they let up near the end.
“Not at the end, I wasn’t pleased with the way they reacted once everyone decided that the game was out of reach,” said Grant. “For a great majority of the game, yeah, I thought the effort was there. At the end, I felt the emotional effort wasn’t there, and I’m very disappointed in that.”
This Newton Rams team tested one of the powerhouses in the state and indeed showed that they are inching closer and closer to being a state powerhouse themselves.
Grant knows for that to happen, they still have plenty of areas to clean up and improve on, and they look to do that in the coming weeks. When asked how the Newton Rams recover from this loss, Grant knows that his team must do that.
“You don’t have a choice. You have to get ready to line up and fight. You’re still trying to fight for a playoff berth and playoff seeding,” Grant said. “If we had won it tonight, it would be the same message. You have 24 hours for this one, whether you win it or lose it. You can’t let it lose the game for you next week.”
Newton’s next region test will be on the road against the Shiloh Generals (6-1, 1-1), whose only loss came at the hands of Grayson.