The Newton Rams will have the opportunity to knock off their second top-10 ranked opponent of the season tonight at home, welcoming Lovejoy to Sharp Stadium for homecoming.
The Rams, fresh off a 28-21 overtime loss to rival Rockdale County last week, will have to regroup quickly after falling to the Bulldogs if they hope to vanquish the lone undefeated team in Region 2.
"I preach every week that you have to be 1-0," Newton coach Terrance Banks said. "We kind of had a sluggish Monday. It hurts to lose a game like that, especially one that you believe you should have won, but you gift wrapped to another team.
"We still can accomplish our goal to win a region championship," he said. "The only way we were going to be region champions (was to) beat the No. 3 team in the state. Nothing from last Friday changed that."
The Rams sit just a game and a half behind the Wildcats in the region standings, but Lovejoy has dominated its opponents in region play. The Wildcats have outscored their four opponents 175-16, allowing no more than a touchdown through four region games.
Part of the Wildcats' success has been due to their overall athleticism and team speed, something that Banks said has helped their defense become one of the best in the region.
"We have great team speed; they have amazing team speed," Banks said.
"We have to score a lot more than 21 points," he said. "Lovejoy finds ways to put the ball in the end zone. If our defense holds them to under 24 points, I will be extremely excited. I believe we are capable of doing that."
Newton's spread offense may have trouble finding the mismatches tit is used to seeing on the offensive side of the ball. The Rams' offense has struggled through the last four games and hasn't scored more than 28 points since its season opener against Eastside.
"We had the second biggest yardage output...against Rockdale," Banks said. "We're moving the ball; we just have to take care of the ball and ultimately get into the end zone. If we can score more than 21 points, then we can look up at the end of the night and be victorious."
On the defensive side of the ball, Banks said the Rams have to keep the Wildcats from connecting on explosive plays.
"We have got to limit the explosive plays," he said. "That's what hurt us against Rockdale. (They had) two, three plays over 40 yards that Rockdale had. Two of them were touchdowns ... outside of that, everything that Rockdale had to work for was (predicated) on driving the ball."
With region glory on the line, Banks knows that the contest against the Wildcats may be his program's biggest to date.
"If you want to be region champions, this is the game you have to win," Banks said.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.