COVINGTON, Ga. - It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t clean. It wasn’t even really dramatic toward the end, but it was a win nonetheless.
The Newton Rams avenged last year’s loss to its biggest rival Eastside by defeating the Eagles 42-7 Friday night in a penalty-laden, turnover-filled ballgame that really didn’t have much flow.
Neal Howard unofficially threw for 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while former Eastside running back Quincy Cullins unofficially rushed for 76 yards and three scores, all coming in the first half to help Newton break a stalemate.
Josh Hardeman also added 78 yards on four carries and Jerrol Hines eclipsed the 100-yard mark for total offense again, while also finding the end zone toward the end of the game.
Things didn’t start well for Eastside as there was confusion between Jeffery Haynes and Dallas Johnson as to who would field the opening kickoff. Johnson ended up catching it, but fumbled the kickoff when struck by a host of Newton tacklers.
The Rams recovered the ball at the Eastside 14, and two plays later, junior tailback Quincy Cullins bounced to the outside and ran left on a counter play that ended in a 16-yard scoring scamper to give Newton a 7-0 win just 52 seconds into the contest.
The tide turned for Eastside when Sincere Johnson snagged a one-handed interception on a pass thrown by Neal Howard, taking it from the Eastside 10 to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Colby Shivers powered his way in for the 2-yard score that evened things at 7-7 with 6:49 left in the first quarter.
The first quarter fireworks continued when Robert Lewis took the ensuing kickoff and darted down the left sideline. He picked up 58 yards on the return but a holding penalty negated the gain, and started a trend of somewhat sloppy football as both teams finished the first quarter in a 7-7 tie and sharing 12 penalties between them.
In the second quarter, the chippy play continued, but also saw both teams missing big scoring opportunities. On one play near the end zone, Cook had Jeffery Haynes open coming across the middle, but a corner blitz on Cook kept him from stepping into the throw, causing him to miss the target.
Later, Howard had Robert Lewis roaming the middle of the field alone, but in similar fashion, the Rams quarterback also misfired on the pass. Both would’ve been easy scores if on target.
Finally, Newton broke the scoreboard silence when Cullins bulldozed his way into the end zone from two yards out to cap of an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive that gave the Rams a 14-7 lead with 7:10 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Eastside’s Sincere Johnson coughed up the handoff from Cook and Newton immediately pounced on it at the Eagles’ 38. It took Newton seven plays to score again, and once again it was Cullins’ number getting called.
His 7-yard burst around left end extend Newton’s lead to 21-7 with just under four minutes left in the first half.
The defensive onslaught continued for Newton, running parallel to Eastside’s struggles to hold on to the ball. On Eastside’s first play of the new drive, Terrence Reid broke free for what looked to be a big run, until Josh Hardeman ran behind and poked the ball out. Newton recovered the fumble, and three plays later Howard connected with Lewis on a perfect fade pass that resulted in a 27-yard touchdown.
The 28-7 lead would hold at the break. The second half was largely uneventful, but Newton put the punctuation mark on its win when Howard connected with Lewis again on an over-the-shoulder fade pass for a 53-yard scoring strike to make it 35-7 in the fourth quarter. Hines ended the scoring with a 27-yard scamper to provide the final margin.
The win set Newton at 2-0 for the season while handing Eastside its first 0-2 start since the 2005 season.
Newton will benefit from an early-season bye week next Friday before starting a four game road stand on September 13 at Arabia Mountain. Eastside will try to get on the winning side of things next Friday in another rivalry game, this time against Alcovy.
Meanwhile, Newton completed the county sweep and secured the Chick-fil-A Newton Cup in the process. The Rams’ next home game will be October 12 against No. 5 Archer.