COVINGTON, Ga. — In the midst of a cold, rainy night at Sharp Stadium, the Newton Rams, in particular, senior tailback Adarius Thomas, got hot when they needed to, and handled their business against the Shiloh Generals Friday night in a 27-14 Region 8-AAAAAAA win.
It was a win that also gave the Rams their seventh straight playoff berth.
Other than the less-than-ideal weather conditions that hung over the stadium for a majority of the game, Newton also faced some execution problems, primarily in the passing game, throughout much of the game, but Thomas’ workhorse performance of 175 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown saved the day.
Despite the 13-point victory, the game felt a lot closer than it seemingly should have been against a 2-7 Generals squad.
Style points aside, the primary thing for head coach Terrance Banks was coming away with the win, regardless of how it was done.
“The most important thing was that the good guys got 27, and the bad guys got 14,” Banks said. “It wasn’t a pretty effort in the second half, so we have to do a lot to make sure that we’re focused for a full 48 (minutes).”
The Rams started the game with Neal Howard taking the snaps at quarterback, and after a three-and-out and a quick punt off a bad snap, Shiloh started its first drive at the Rams 43, but were forced to punt.
Newton’s next march down the field produced a 31-yard field goal from Abdiel Valesquez that gave Newton a 3-0 lead early.
After a Shiloh fumble, Newton was facing a fourth-and-one from the General’s 30 when Banks elected to go for it, and Thomas would carry the ball up the middle and rumble into the end zone to put the Rams up 10-0.
There were several fourth downs throughout the game where Banks elected to keep his offense out on the field, but it was unclear if that was a game-plan decision or a weather-related decision.
In fact, Newton’s next two drives in the half would result in turnovers on downs, but fumbles and blocked punts on the next two defensive series for the Rams kept Shiloh away from any scoring opportunities.
After a blocked punt that a Shiloh player kicked into the back of the end zone, Newton’s Laterius Stowers quickly found Michael Mathison for an eight-yard touchdown pass.
While the Rams had a passing touchdown on the night, the passing game still lacked explosiveness. In fact, Shiloh out-gained the Rams through the air to the tune of 81 to 58 yards.
“There were some missed assignments, but we will get back to it and try to clean that up,” Banks said.
Coming out of the half with a 20-7 lead, the Rams defense had to show a bend-but-don’t-break-mentality.
The Generals took their first possession of the second half and marched all the way down to the Rams one-yard line, taking nearly eight minutes off the third quarter clock in the process. However, they fumbled the ball, but were able to score one series later after Newton gave it right back with a fumble of its own.
Down 20-7, Shiloh began marching down the field quickly finding themselves inside the Rams 20 when Generals quarterback, Arthur Rogers was looking for a running back who made it behind Nyland Green on a wheel route, but the throw landed right into Green’s hands, and the sophomore took it back 95 yards for a pick six that killed off the Generals’ momentum.
There was only one way Banks could describe how clutch Green’s pick-six was for his team.
“Huge,” he said. “I mean, we needed that, because at that point its 20-7, and if they scored, it’s 20-14 and it’s totally different.”
Although the Generals responded quickly with a rushing touchdown following a big kickoff return, time was not in their favor, which allowed Newton to kill off several minutes and kept Shiloh from any chance of a comeback.
The win guaranteed Newton (4-5, 2-2) a spot in the playoffs. But its final regular season game against cross-county rival Rockdale will likely be the difference between Newton playing in the postseason as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. The Bulldogs (2-6, 1-2) will be looking to try to squeeze into the playoffs as well if they can pull off a victory over Newton.
“Beat Rockdale,” Banks said when talking about keeping his guys focused. “I don’t want to be the fourth seed, and Rockdale could still make the playoffs, so Rockdale is going to come out swinging.
“It’s a rivalry game. There’s a nice pretty trophy that we have in our front office. Rockdale hasn’t had it in about four years, so I’m certain they want it back, so we’ve got to get better. Rockdale is coming to fight, and we are coming to fight.”