Newton head coach Terrance Banks, stood tall tucked away in the corner of Adams Stadium in his khaki slacks, Newton blue collar shirt with a black long sleeve shirt under it and white headphones in his ears. Still over an hour until game time, it was calm on a damp Friday evening.
The game was anything but.
“This the boys’ moment,” Banks said when asked what he was thinking in that moment an hour before kickoff. “This is their moment. It was their night and they were about to do what nobody outside of Covington thought they could.”
Banks was animated on the field 30 minutes later before the game – headphones still in – pumping his fists and high stepping. He was pumped. And then the game started and Banks’ demeanor must’ve carried over to his players.
Hampered by three penalties on its first drive, Newton was still able to score three points with a field goal after gains of 18, twice and a 22-yard run by Augustus Murray to get inside the Tucker five-yard line.
The Rams kicked off to Tucker and it was returned to the Tucker 27-yard line, but two plays later Newton senior defensive back Quentin Dixon – who had a terrific game - recovered a Tiger fumble at the Tucker 20-yard line. Newton running back Kurt Taylor would run it in for a Rams touchdown from 15 yards out to give the Rams a 9-7 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
The Tigers weren’t phased by Newton’s early momentum as they marched down the field with their patented wing-t rushing attack and scored on a six-yard run after seven plays to knock seven points off Newton’s previous nine-point lead.
Tucker’s defense got a stroke of luck when senior quarterback Romario Johnson slipped on the wet field one yard short of a first down, but Banks waived off his offense attempting to run off the field and elected to go for it on fourth-and-one in Tucker territory. The Rams gave it to Taylor and he powered ahead for four yards to pick up the first.
By the end of the first quarter, Newton was in Tucker territory. To open the second period, the Rams attempted to go deep on a fade route to senior receiver Deandre Huff, but after beating the corner, Huff dropped what would’ve been a touchdown.
A pass interference penalty negated a Tucker interception two plays later and the Rams converted on third down with a five-yard run by Johnson. On the next play, Taylor turned an inside run into a 38-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 16-7 lead after the extra point.
Newton forced a quick three-and-out as the first two Tucker pays went for negative yardage and an incompletion on third down. With their hurry-up passing attack, Newton quickly got back into Tucker territory.
Tucker’s defense got a stop and forced a fourth-and-one that made Banks call a timeout. The field goal unit came out but it was a fake. However, the snap was high and Murray turned around and fell on the ball.
“I got too cute,” Banks said about the playcall. “I got cute. I tried to pull something out of my hat when I didn’t need to and it was the moment, I guess.”
The Tigers turned the turnover on downs into points with a six-play 91-yard touchdown drive to draw within two at 16-14, which stood going into halftime.
Newton started the second half like they started the first, firing on all cylinders. The defense forced a three-and-out and a 45-yard run by Taylor set up a three-yard touchdown run by Taylor, his third on the night.
After the touchdown, Newton’s tenacious defense forced another three-and-out. The Rams got the ball back and couldn’t convert on fourth down in their own territory. But the Rams’ defense held tight and forced Tucker to try another field goal, which was missed.
Newton’s offense stalled again, and the Rams were forced to punt. The botched attempt began with a low snap that went into the end zone, but Jeremiah Holloman recovered it and ran it out before fumbling at the Tucker five. The ball was returned to the Tiger 2-yard line.
The Tigers scored on the next play, but missed the PAT and the Rams’ lead was cut to three (23-20). To open the fourth quarter, the Tigers attempted a pooch kick that flustered the Rams and was tipped and fumbled by a Tucker player before Newton recovered the ball at its own 28.
On a crucial third-and-four early in the fourth quarter, Johnson found Taylor in the flats and Taylor turned up field for a 37-yard pickup. After a holding penalty backed Newton up, Johnson would find Huff in the corner of the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown to give Newton a 30-20 lead with 8:44 to play.
The Tigers were put into a third-and-four situation after a fumbled snap set them back three yards. Junior linebacker/safety Jaquan Henderson dropped the Tigers’ quarterback for a sack – an 11-yard loss.
An 11-play drive resulted in another Taylor rushing touchdown, his fourth of the night. Henderson recovered a fumble to end the game and Newton won 37-20.
The Rams accumulated over 400 total yards of offense, mainly from Johnson and Taylor – kind of sounds like a law firm – in the win.
“It feels good to have all 11 starters back, and I think that was key,” Banks said. “This is the first game we’ve played all season with all of our boys that we thought were gonna start in July and it makes a difference. That timing, that experience, it makes a difference.”
“Having everybody back I think once they get back into a rhythm with trust that we’ll be very [good],” Banks said. “We’re no longer a passing-only team, we can run the ball now.”
Newton will host Alcovy at home on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a region-rival matchup.