COVINGTON, Ga. — The road to victory may not be much easier for Newton this week, but it could at least be much closer to home.
The struggling Rams will return to the friendly confines of Sharp Stadium for the first time in a month on Friday night when they welcome red-hot Brookwood to Newton County.
After opening the season with double-digit victories over Alcovy and Eastside, Newton has hit a rough patch. The club took off for a three-game road trip and came home empty-handed after suffering losses to McEachern (8-7), Houston County (21-7) and Parkview (35-7).
During the Rams’ most recent setback, an early turnover allowed momentum to swing in favor of the host Panthers.
“We drove down the field with an opportunity to tie the game up, hit a big play to Nyland [Green] on a vertical route, and then got down inside the 10 before throwing an interception in the end zone,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant Jr. recalled this week. “And then for the rest of the night it was just kind of like that. We’d make a good play, and then we’d drop a pass, or we’d miss a protection, or we’d miss a block.”
Newton’s defense did the best it could to keep the team in the game. Unfortunately, the offense was never able to get out of its own way for long enough to mount a comeback against a powerhouse like the Panthers.
“The biggest thing was just that we ran into a real good football team,” Grant said, “and we made way too many mistakes to stay in the football game against a good ball team.”
Newton’s next test could perhaps be its most difficult one of the season. Brookwood is sitting at 6-0 on the year with victories over the likes of Dacula (40-34), Walton (43-32) and Marietta (56-42) already under its belt.
Going into last week, Brookwood quarterback Dylan Lonergan led the state with 1,774 passing yards. The sophomore gunslinger now sits third behind Prince Avenue Christian senior Brock Vandagriff (1,878), a University of Georgia commit, and Mount Vernon senior Blake Kytle (1,942).
The Broncos enjoy airing the ball out and have the necessary weapons to find success in doing so, which will put Newton’s elite secondary to the test for four quarters. However, in order to slow down the air raid attack, the Rams believe they must first focus on keeping Brookwood honest in the ground game.
“Anytime you go into a ballgame you know you’ve got to stop the run, and that’ll be no different for us facing Brookwood. But I think the first thing for us is taking a look and seeing what they’re doing in the passing game and how we can slow that down,” Grant said. “And if we’ll be able to do that without adding extra guys to the box.”
Newton will also try to piece things together on the offensive side of the ball this week.
The Rams have looked sharp in spurts through the first five games of the season. Junior quarterback Jevarra Martin Jr. possesses the proper arm strength to push the ball down the field, the Rams’ stable of running backs have the speed to evade defenders and the receiver corps is loaded with talent.
At the end of the day, it comes down to execution.
“When we go back and look at the tap, what we’re seeing is just a lack of finishing and execution,” Grant said. “We’ve got loess guys in the wrong place than we had a couple of weeks ago. They’re getting to the right spots but then they’re not finishing.”
So, how can that be fixed? Newton will begin by drilling home the importance of the small things.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time this week on making those difficult plays like contested catches and moving the ball in difficult situations,” Grant said. “I really feel like the way that the momentum of a ballgame goes, if one of those plays is made early on, your confidence level changes. It just changes the whole feel of what you’re trying to do.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Follow The Covington News on Facebook and @CovNewsSports on Twitter for live updates.