POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Newton knew adversity was likely waiting on Friday night.
The coaches preached about it. The players discussed it. The fans were anxious in anticipation of it.
Coming off a pair of victories against their county rivals, the Rams finally left the comfort of Newton County to take on a state power in McEachern. As it turned out, adversity did come, and the Rams responded nobly.
But it wasn’t enough.
Clinging to a 7-0 lead late on the road against McEachern, the Rams found themselves backed into the shadow of their own end zone and forced to punt. They subsequently shanked the kick, allowing the Indians to take over on the 4-yard line.
McEachern scored quick, then used trickery to execute a successful 2-point conversion. Suddenly the Rams found themselves facing their first deficit of the night with just 2:59 left in regulation.
The final nail in the coffin came with eight ticks left, when a 31-yard field goal attempt failed to sail through the uprights, sealing Newton’s fate. McEachern ran out the clock and held on for the 8-7 victory in astonishing fashion.
“What I just told [my players] was that first, I understand it hurts. It’s supposed to, because it means a lot to you. But what I saw was a team that didn’t quit,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant Jr. said. “Coming in, we talked about facing adversity. What I tried to get them to understand just now is we talked about facing adversity, we did face it, but sometimes you still come up short.
“The lesson to be learned in that is you did not give it away.”
Following a defensive lockdown in the opening quarter, Newton took the lead in the second when junior quarterback Jevarra Martin dropped a dime to senior Nyland Green in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown. The Rams jumped in front, 7-0, with 7:53 remaining in the first half.
That score would remain unchanged until late in the fourth quarter, when McEachern quarterback Reece Kingeter punched it in from 1 yard out to pull the Indians within a point. On the ensuing play, they ran a form of the swinging gate to pull of a two-point conversion and power back in front.
The Rams responded by driving all the way down to the red zone, but missed their shot to retake the lead in the game’s final moments.
Newton will try to collect itself and bounce back next Friday, Oct. 9, when it travels to Houston County for its final non-region game.