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Rams power past East Coweta in playoff opener
Artice Hobbs tiptoes down the sideline for a long gain against East Coweta.

Senior quarterback Romario Johnson led a highly efficient Newton offense and finished with 329 yards of total offense and one touchdown helping to lift Newton to a 38-17 victory over East Coweta. Of the Rams’ seven drives throughout the game, five resulted in points, one was a punt and the other was a kneel-down to end the game.

“Earlier in the season we weren’t healthy and our guys have been getting into a rhythm. Our boys were waiting for the moment to bring it out and do what they do having a chance to play four quarters and I think that we felt like we had a good game plan and we just had to not overdo it and just take what they give us,” Terrance Banks, Newton head coach, said.

Some of the problems that arose in Newton’s loss against Lovejoy were problems for the Rams’ defense on the first drive. Newton had 25 yards of negative yardage in penalties and the Rams couldn’t get off the field three times on third down.

“We can’t win big with those kind of penalties. I do think some of them were tic-tack, but that doesn’t matter we gotta get off the field and we cannot have penalties like that or we gone have serious problems next week against Collins Hill,” Banks said.

East Coweta QB Christian Reed kept it and ran in for the two-yard score to give East Coweta an early 7-0 lead after the PAT. Before the PAT was kicked, however, Newton defensive back Jacobi Francis was down on the field injured and had to be carted off with what was reportedly a broken ankle.

The Rams responded on offense. Newton QB Romario Johnson set the Rams up at the 15-yard line after a 55-yard run, but another 20 yards in penalties pushed Newton back to the East Coweta 35-yard line.

“I was able to see, actually, Alex [Jacobs] he had pulled and then he blocked the middle linebacker, which actually set up the run for me,” Romario Johnson said about the 55-yard run to set Newton up.

Kurt Taylor picked up 10 yards on second and 30 allowing Johnson to connect with Deandre Huff on a diving acrobatic catch for a 21-yard gain and a Newton first down. On the following play, Johnson found Huff again for a four-yard touchdown. Newton failed to convert the two-point attempt, and trailed 7-6.

Despite East Coweta starting the ensuing drive at their own 16-yard line, it took the Indians six plays to score its second touchdown of the quarter taking a 14-6 lead. Deandre Huff took just seconds to answer as the senior returned a kick 90 yards for the touchdown and Newton trailed 14-13 before the end of the first quarter.

Finally, Newton was able to stop an Indian touchdown as the Rams stopped East Coweta on third and goal, 10 yards out to force a field goal that made it 17-13, East Coweta.

The Rams were able to score again, this time on a 12-play 68-yard drive that was capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by Taylor and a two-point conversion by Murray to give Newton a 21-17 lead.

Because defense wasn’t a focal point for either team in the first half of the contest, East Coweta was again able to get into Newton territory, but an unforced fumble gave Newton the ball back with under a minute to play in the half.

On their first play after the turnover with four receivers spread out, Johnson got the call on a QB draw and ran up the middle for a 72-yard gain as he was brought down by his shoelaces trying to outrun an East Coweta defender. Newton wasn’t able to score on the next three plays so they settled for a field goal, taking a 24-17 lead into halftime set to get the ball back at the beginning of the third.

At halftime, the Rams had three possessions resulting in two touchdowns and one field goal while the Indians had four possessions that led to two touchdowns, one field goal and one turnover. The Rams also had 11 penalties in the first half, alone, which kept the Indians in the game.

The second half was all Newton. The Rams began the third quarter with an 11-play 68-yard drive that saw Taylor rush 22 yards for his second touchdown of the night The drive could’ve been stopped when the Rams decided to go for it on fourth-and-one in East Coweta territory, but Taylor picked up an easy eight yards for the first down and scored three plays later.

The Indians quickly picked up two first downs, but they were forced into a third-and-23 after a penalty and two good stops from the Rams. East Coweta would be forced to punt after failing to convert on third-and-long.
East Coweta was forced to punt on all three of their second half possessions.

“We just cleaned up communication – who had who – and went to some base checks on defense and got back vanilla,” Banks spoke of his halftime adjustments.” I told the defense, I said, ‘Guys they’re not stopping us on offense so just keep it vanilla and make them drive all the way downfield.”

Despite a 56-yard pass from Johnson to Artice Hobbs to get the Rams into East Coweta territory, Newton couldn’t take advantage of East Coweta’s struggles on offense and was forced to punt.

A Jaquan Henderson sack ended a 14-play drive for the Indians and Newton got the ball back with the mindset to run the ball and score, so they did. On the ensuing drive, the Rams ran the ball six out of eight times for 28 yards to run the clock, and a 41-yard pass to Hobbs set up Hobbs’ seven-yard touchdown run, giving Newton a 21-point cushion with 4:21 to play in the game.

East Coweta got the ball back and couldn’t do anything with it and the Rams got into victory formation on their next drive to win the game 38-17.

“It’s a great win, we just gotta stay focused and get ready for the next one,” Romario Johnson said.

Newton will host Collins Hill in the second round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs next Friday at 7:30 p.m.