Newton survived four overtimes to beat region opponent Luella High School Lions 36-30 on senior night at Homer Sharp Stadium Friday. Unfortunately, the win wasn’t enough to propel them to the playoffs.
The Rams entered the game tied with Westlake for fifth place in region 2-AAAAA. East Coweta held the fourth and final spot in the region as they battled cross-town rival Newnan. The Rams needed both those teams to lose to earn a postseason bid. And while they did their part with the win, East Coweta rallied late to beat Newnan and Langston Hughes blew out Westlake 40-18.
Despite the disappointing result, the Rams played as if their playoff hopes were on the line and did their part. Senior running back Javonte “J-Will” Williams closed out his senior night in style scoring three touchdowns including the game winner in quadruple overtime. Williams also became the first running back since 1998 to rush for over a 1,000 yards in a season.
With 2:41 left in the game and no timeouts left and down 24-20, the Rams’ season appeared to be over. With a senior lead offensive unit, it was more than enough time for the Rams. Brown connected on a 12 yard pass to big playmaker McKenzie and a 20 yard screen pass to Williams to get the Rams to the 7 yard line. On the next possession, Williams plowed towards the end zone and stretch the ball over the goal line for a touchdown. The PAT was good as the Rams led 27-24 with 1:07 seconds left in the game.
The Rams’ season was on the line as Luella offense worked its magic. A prevent defense was not enough for the Rams as Luella got the ball with 56.3 left in the fourth. The Lions quarterback threw a pass 35 yard pass as the receiver was tackled at the 10 yard line. After a sack by a trio of Newton defenders with 4.2 second left in the game, Luella connected on a 23 yard game tying field goal as time expired. The scored at the end of regulation was 27-27.
The Georgia High School Association Over time procedures were used in this game because the two schools are in the same classification and one team had playoffs implications. The GHSA overtime rules give both teams a chance to score with the ball being placed at the 15-yard line.
In overtime, the Rams won the coin toss and received the ball. After a couple short runs by Williams and an incomplete pass to McKenzie, the Rams decided to go for a first down on fourth-and-3 but were denied on their first possession. Then it was Luella turn at the 15-yard line as their first play was flagged for a 5-yard delay of game penalty. Anthony William big stop forced Luella to attempt a 20-yard field goal that fell short of the goal post.
The game was extended to a second overtime as Luella had the first opportunity to score. Their drive was again flagged by a 5-yard penalty for false start and two incomplete passes in the end zone. The Lions 30-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left give Newton a chance to win the game. However, Newton was denied the end zone and an attempted 30-yard field goal that just missed the left upright forcing another overtime period.
In the third overtime, both teams scored on field goals. Newton was forced to kick a 27-yard field goal after being stopped on third-and-17. The Lions responded with a 30-yard attempt that split the upright and tied the game at 30 -30.
In the fourth overtime, Luella’s 25-yard field goal was blocked by Antonio Williams turning the ball over to the Rams. The Rams took little time scoring as Javonte Williams dashed into the end zone for a 6-yard game-winning touchdown run. The win improved the Rams record to 6-4, but unfortunately they were unable to make the state playoffs as East Coweta defeat Newnan to earn the fourth and final spot in region 2-AAAAA.
Luella High entered the game with no playoffs aspirations. They were hoping to play spoiler and try to prevent the Rams from extending their season into the playoffs. With temperatures dipping down to a chilly 50 degrees Friday night, it was the perfect weather for some football.
The Rams won the toss and elected to receive the ball first. Quarterback Gmatreian Brown and his offense was unable to get Rams moving on their first possession after two incomplete passes and a run that resulted in a four yard loss. The Rams were forced to punt the ball with hopes of getting a boost from their defense. It did not take long for star defensive end Kingsley Ejike to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-3 junior made a big stop forcing the Lions into a fourth-and-17 resulting in a punt.
The second possession for the Rams was also short lived with illegal motion penalties and a couple tackles for losses by the Lions’ linebacker. Newton punted for the second straight possession and again the defense of the Rams was on the field as they tried to create a spark for their team.
Luella’s offense was unable to get going on their second possession with two key penalties of personal foul and an illegal block in the back. Defensive linemen Damon Gresham made a key stop on third-and-18 and the Lions were forced to punt. With 3:55 left in first quarter, Newton made a mental mistake on their special teams. A punt returner waved a fair catch signal on the five yard line instead of the letting the ball bounce in the end zone. If the ball would have bounced either way, the Rams would have been in better field position. Instead the offense started on the five yard line. The poor field position put the Ram’s in danger as Williams fumbled on second-and-10 and a Luella player recovered in the end zone for a touchdown with 3:39 seconds left in the first quarter. The point after touchdown was blocked and the Lions took a 6-0 advantage.
With their offense barely clicking, Newton defense kept the crowd in the game. For the fourth straight possession Luella was forced to a third-and-long situation and with 11:12 left in the second quarter David Comer made an incredible over the head interception.
Newton’s fifth possession was pivotal if the Rams wanted to stay in the game. Javonte Williams’ short runs established himself a spot in the record books as he was acknowledged for rushing over 1,000 yards this season. With that momentum, Brown connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass to McKenzie with 3:48 seconds left before halftime. The PAT was good and Rams took a 7-6 lead. The Rams would find the end zone again after Tyrique Brown blocked Luella’s punt and Treshawn Curry picked up the ball for a 5-yard score. The PAT kick was good as Newton closed out the half with a 14-6 lead.
Luella received help from their special teams in the third quarter as Reise McDaniel took a punt and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown. The Lions attempted a two point conversion but it was intercepted by Devonte Hunt. Later on in the third, Luella kicked a 22-yard field goal to give the Lions a 15-14 lead with 3:01 left in the third quarter.
It did not take long for Newton to respond as Brown found Aaron Pierce on a 22-yard reception to the Lion’s two yard line. On the next play, Javonte Williams punched the ball in for a 2-yard touchdown. The Rams attempted a two-point conversion but the pass was incomplete as they close out the third on top 20-15.
A breakdown on Newton’s kicking team coverage occurred at the start of the fourth. Dangerous wideout McDaniel returned the kickoff 90 yards untouched for a Luella touchdown. Luella two point conversion was denied again but the Lion lead 21-20 at the start of the fourth.
A crucial drive for the Rams offense was stalled after a fake punt was stopped by Luella. The officials signal for a measurement after a questionable spot by the line judge. Javonte Williams was stopped just inches of a first down resulting in a turnover of downs. Luella received the ball and used the clock as their friend. The Lions patiently marched down the field and kicked a 33 yard field goal to increase their lead to 24-20.
The Rams closed out the season with one of the most exciting games in Newton County history. This game will truly be a most memorable one for the 22 seniors and the entire Rams’ coaching staff.