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Rams start slow, finish strong

Eastside came out in full force, like this game had playoff implications, and Newton came out like it was a scrimmage, which it was, but being the rivals that the two teams are bragging rights were on the line and the Eagles struck first on an Austin Holloway touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

The Rams, stifled, buckled down and the Eagles never scored again.

“They just had to settle in. We’ve got some new faces, so they just needed to settle in and kind of get their wits about ‘em, and after they got hit in the mouth they said, “OK,”and they responded,” Terrance Banks, Rams’ head coach, said.

Banks did say he felt his team came out flat, and that’s something that they’ll correct going into the regular season.

“We gotta start off better, that’s it. I wanted to see them get going. We started off kind of slow, Eastside came ready to do their thing for coach [Troy] Hoff and I expected that, I don’t know if our kids expected that, and they came and punched us in the mouth,” Banks said. “That’s the bad thing, but once they got punched in the mouth they said, ‘OK, we gotta pick it up some.’”

Usual starting quarterback Romario Johnson sat at out along with receivers JJ Holloman and Deandre Huff. Sophomore Myron Middlebrooks took the reins at QB and played a good game, though Banks didn’t ask him to do much with his three-headed running back tandem in Kurt Taylor Jr., Augustus Murray and Artice Hobbs.

“I love the fact that we lined up and we ran the ball,” Banks said proudly. “We didn’t do anything special, we ran the ball. I’m pleased with [Kurt Taylor Jr.], [Artice Hobbs] and [Augustus Murray], those three guys, gotta find a way to get ‘em on the field, we did. I’m proud of our defense and how they got after it.”

“We got good problems when we got a lot of kids who can touch the ball,” Banks added. “There was no Romario, there was no J.J. Holloman, there was no [Deandre] Huff and I kind of wanted to see those three guys and make them interchangeable and get practice at it. It’ll make it hard for teams to defend us if we can rotate those guys a lot.”

The Rams have good problems indeed. Taylor Jr. is the starting back and he’s the prototypical speed and power combination, he runs with his head down and he’s not gonna go down off of one hit. Murray and Hobbs are speed guys who can catch the ball, run sweeps, but break long runs if they get the chance. Murray is deceptively strong as well.

On defense, the Rams could surprise teams this year, Jaquan Henderson is a stud and the defensive line seems to have improved.

“He’s a ball player, man. He’s one of those kids that can do the stuff that you dream about,” Banks said regarding Henderson. “The whole defense, I think we’re gonna be fine on defense and he did a great job.”

With Newton, you know what you’re gonna get. They’re gonna mix up the run and the pass, and look to blow by you over the top. That shouldn’t change anytime soon.

“It’s Newton and that’s what we do. We don’t change up,” Banks said. “Next year it’ll be Myron’s turn, it’ll be some of the other receivers. That’s why we played him tonight, he’s gotta learn by fire, he needed this under the lights, big stage. Because next year when it comes, Newton and Eastside, he won’t be worried about the stage.”

Despite earning the win, Banks praised Eastside and said they were a good team.

“Eastside’s gonna be a real good team, I think people need to keep up [with them],” Banks said. “I think coach Hoff is gonna have the Eagles in the playoffs and they’re gonna be a real good team this year. For them to get ready to play a 6-A team it’ll help them out in the future.”

Next week is when it gets real and that has Banks excited. The Rams will travel to face Berkmar to open their season.

“Now it’s time to go to work baby,” he said. “Next Friday it counts for real, it’s time to go to work.”