For Newton’s football team, it’s simple. Win tonight or forget about any shot at the postseason.
The Rams are in a logjam for the final playoff spot. Newton is tied with Luella, Douglass and Redan at 2-3 in Region 2-AAAAA but owns the tie-breaker over Redan. Technically, the Rams could still have a shot to make the playoffs even with a loss, but head coach Nick Collins doesn’t want to let it get that far.
"We have to win out to assure ourselves of a chance to get in and then do what we did not want to do which is hope for some help from either Luella or Stephenson," he said.
Newton will come out with the mindset that it must win. Collins doesn’t expect to change his approach but this week’s opponent Union Grove is as tough as it gets. The Wolverines sit atop the standings and are scoring 26 points a game while only yielding 10.
"We have to stop the run first," Collins said. "Their offense will cause some people to make drastic changes in what you do, but we feel like we can run our base stuff and be competitive. We also have to create some balance on offense, but that will only come if we can get some of the guys with injuries healed up enough to execute the things we want to do."
The Rams have made significant strides on both sides of the ball so far this year. But they’ve yet to put together two wins in a row and that has them on the outside looking in. Still, Collins and his staff will approach the game with the mindset that they will be able to compete as long as they remain disciplined.
"Actually, we have backed off a little on the contact and worked on getting some of the guys with injuries healed up," he said.
Injuries are a part of the game and the Rams will have to deal with them like any other team. Consistency has been a concern all year. Despite that, Collins is still happy with the way his team responds to tough losses.
"I’m pleased with how we’ve competed," he said. "We have seven seniors and 28 sophomores and to even be in a position to talk possible playoffs after going 1-9 the year before means that we are headed in the right direction."
Quarterback Demetrius McCray will need help from his offensive line. The Rams have shown the ability to pass more over the past two games and that balance will be the key to keeping Union Grove’s potent offense off the field.
Defensively, the Rams will need to stop the run, something they have had mixed success with so far. If the Rams do come up short, it won’t be from lack of effort.
"I am very pleased with the work our coaches have put in; it means a lot to have capable assistants," he said. "I just hope that our community understands that we have high expectations and that we still need to show some patience as we try and build this program the right way and that what we have done is laid the next brick in building a solid foundation."