Newton looks to avenge a 47-12 thrashing it took at the hands of MLK last year when the Rams welcome the Lions to Sharp Stadium tonight at 7:30 p.m.The Rams come into tonight’s game riding the emotion of a 42-36 overtime win over Redan on the road Friday. With two wins at the midpoint of the season, Newton has already eclipsed last year’s win total. Coach Nick Collins hopes his team will respond and defeat an MLK team that sits atop the standings with Union Grove at 2-0.
"We feel good," Collins said. "As I have stated many times this season, we have an expectation of winning and that is how we prepare."
The Rams will attempt to keep the momentum from Friday’s win and Collins said the team has rallied behind Demetrius McCray since he was inserted as the starter after week one.
"Our team has a lot of confidence in Demetrius, and although he is not a vocal leader, his, what the kids call Swagger, is contagious," he said.
It won’t be easy. The Rams have been prone to giving up big plays and will have to contain a potent running game. Up front, the Rams will need to knock the Lions off the ball and win the battle in the trenches.
"We have to control the line of scrimmage, play great run defense and win the kicking game battle," Collins said. "They [the Lions] field great athletes and are multiply talented in both their offensive and defensive schemes. Coach [Corey] Jarvis does a great job of taking what you give him and turning it into big plays."
Another concern facing Collins is his team’s inconsistency. With only five seniors in the starting lineup, the Rams are young and gaining experience each week. To beat a team as deep and athletic as MLK, Newton will certainly need to put together 48 minutes of fundamental football.
"We have to stop getting complacent," Collins said. "Our kids don’t have that killer instinct when we get ahead and somehow we have got to instill that in them."
McCray has been the catalyst for Newton’s running game and the Rams feature quick hitters on the edges like Fred Davis and Akeem Hunt, the latter who has already scored two 80-yard runs. Collins will use Quinton Pooler as a change of pace and hopes the running game will allow the Rams to move the chains and keep the ball away from MLK.
"We will change a couple of things as far as how we use Quinton [Pooler], Fred [Davis] and Akeem [Hunt] and we hope that these changes will allow us to be more ball controlling as we go along," he said. "We hope to use the passing game more. As long as we are not forced the throw the ball, then we have a chance to be successful picking the spots to throw where we can keep an advantage."
A win would certainly put Newton in the mix for the regional playoffs and would make a statement in Region 2-AAAAA. As it stands, the Rams sit in a log jam for second with three other teams. Newton plays three of its last five games at home and while tonight’s battle is not a must win, Collins knows it is important not to fall too far behind heading into the second half of the season.
"I’m not sure still if the kids are aware of the importance of this game," he said. "We have to run the ball and stop the run. This week is huge because it puts us in the driver's seat as far as one of the playoff positions is concerned. "