Featuring a double pass, a fainting fan and a punt kicked into the back of a teammate’s head, Saturday’s contest between the Newton Rams and the Morrow Mustangs proved to be bizarre on its unusual weekend date.
Despite the odd details of the game, the Rams proved to be the most consistent part of the day, as quarterback Romario Johnson accounted for six touchdowns in the Rams’ 49-30 victory at Sharp Stadium.
Johnson ran for 133 yards on the ground and a score, while throwing for 190 yards and five touchdowns, including two scores apiece by wideouts Davonta Jones and Taylor Hawkins, in the win.
The win secured the No. 2 seed for the Rams in Region 2-AAAAAA, ensuring Newton a home game next week for the opening round of the state playoffs.
“We’re excited to be in the playoffs,” Newton coach Terrance Banks said. “Everybody’s record is 0-0, and we have to go back to work tomorrow.”
Banks said that although the Rams did not play up to his standards, they still had a lot they could build on heading into the postseason.
“We made too many mistakes,” he said. “We have to get better at the little stuff if we’re going to do anything (in the postseason).”
The Mustangs looked like they were still sleeping in the first half against the Rams, as Newton rolled out to a 27-0 lead before Morrow put points in the scoreboard.
The Rams’ first score came after Newton partially blocked a Mustangs’ punt, setting up their offense at Morrow’s 16-yard line. Johnson needed just one play after the Mustangs’ special teams miscue to find the end zone, hitting DeAndre Huff for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Newton’s Nicolas Munoz added the extra-point, giving Newton a 7-0 advantage with 7:18 to go in the first quarter.
Morrow had an opportunity to cut into the Rams’ lead on their second drive of the game, after the Rams were called for a late hit on the kickoff after Huff’s score. The penalty set the Mustangs up at Newton’s 38-yard line, and a pair of passes from the Mustangs’ Courtney Heard set Morrow up just outside of the Rams’ red zone.
The Mustangs’ drive was stopped, however, as Dez Billingslea sacked Heard for a 4-yard loss, and the Rams’ defense forced a pair of incompletions, causing the Mustangs to turn the ball over on downs.
Newton scored on its next drive after the change of possession, as Johnson orchestrated a 71-yard drive that pushed the Rams ahead 15-0. Johnson put the Rams inside of Morrow territory with a 31-yard pass to Huff, then crossed the goal line on a 30-yard quarterback keeper. Newton’s Bubba Hickson completed the 2-point conversion to Christian Worthy-Hall to put the Rams ahead by two scores.
The Rams scored again on a Morrow fumble, needing just seven plays to reach the end zone after Trestun Willis scooped up the loose ball for the Rams.
Johnson ended the drive with a 10-yard pass to Hawkins for his second touchdown through the air, extending Newton’s lead to 21-0 with 11:53 left in the first half.
Newton and Morrow traded touchdowns to close the half. Newton’s Corey Wyatt picked off Heard for a 61-yard interception return for a score with less than three minutes to go in the half before Morrow answered with its first score.
The Mustangs used a little bit of trickery to cut into the Rams’ 27-point advantage, using a double pass from Heard to receiver Shawn Murphy to wideout Tyler Moore to reach the end zone. Murphy’s pass sailed over the Rams’ defense to a wide open Moore, sending the Mustangs into halftime down 27-6.
In the second half, the Mustangs struck first, scoring on their opening drive on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Heard to Keenan Davis.
Newton looked poised to answer on its ensuing drive, reaching the Mustangs' 1-yard line, but officials ruled that Johnson fumbled the ball into the end zone after the quarterback appeared to have been down by contact just in front of the goal line.
The turnover did not hurt the Rams, however, as Billingslea sacked Heard in the end zone for a safety,
giving Newton a 29-14 lead.
Newton scored on its next possession after the safety on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hawkins.
Both teams matched touchdowns to close the game, as Johnson threw two more touchdowns, both to Jones on 2- and 4-yard scores.
Huff added 33 yards on the ground for the Rams on five carries, while Hawkins finished with a team-high five catches for 58 yards.
Heard ended his afternoon with 189 yards and two scores through the air.
Newton returns to action next week in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Rams will play the No. 3 seed from Region 4, McEachern. McEachern was ranked No. 2 in the state for much of the season before dropping two of its final three games of the season to North Cobb and Hillgrove.