Eastside-Newton postgame with Troy Hoff
Eastside-Newton postgame with Taylor Carter
COVINGTON, Ga. — Eastside coach Troy Hoff was adamant about not calling this year’s Eastside-Newton game revenge, but you couldn’t tell it the way Eastside played with a chip on its shoulder.
The Eagles pushed the Rams around upfront to the tune of 200-plus rushing yards, with Taylor Carter leading the way with 130 of those yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns as Eastside defeated crosstown rival Newton 27-20 Friday night at Sharp Stadium.
And let Carter tell it, he and everybody donning Eastside green had a premonition of how this game would go even before the opening kickoff.
“Really it started coming into the stadium to be honest,” Carter said. “We all had the same energy. We didn’t want what happened last year to happen again.”
Carter was talking about the last meeting between the two schools where Newton smacked the Eagles 40-0, injuring then-sophomore quarterback Noah Cook in the process. But Cook, who only threw six passes a week after passing for 255 yards and completing 22 throws against Ola, downplayed the revenge angle even as he acknowledged the thrill of playing Newton each year.
“We love playing them,” Cook said. “Both teams play so hard, and we knew it would be a good game. We loved every minute of it, but did we think about last year? Not at all. That game was completely in the rear view mirror. We were just worried about working hard, day in and day out. Tonight everybody was just grinding, and it paid off.”
The grind really began to take its toll on Newton’s defense in the third quarter, when, after a 6-3 halftime score with Newton in the lead, both offenses began to pick up, with Eastside beginning to churn out rushing yards almost at will.
After Jeff Haynes stepped in front of Newton quarterback Neal Howard’s pass, picking it off and returning it 32 yards for a score to give the Eagles their first lead of the night at 10-6, you could see the confidence building.
Newton scored on the ensuing possession, however, as Howard engineered a five-play, 68-yard scoring drive that climaxed with a 65-yard scoring strike to Robert Lewis, allowing the Rams to reclaim a 13-10 lead at the 10:12 mark of the quarter.
Eastside countered — literally — as the Eagles’ 8-play, 70-yard response scoring drive featured five straight counter plays — four of them run by Carter who ended the drive with a 17-yard scamper around right end for the touchdown, giving Eastside a 17-13 lead with 7:47 left in the third.
“We’ve got good running backs, and all of us really play the same,” Carter said. “But on those plays, I think it came to me just because of ball security. That was just part of the game plan.”
Eastside coach Troy Hoff said his team’s reliance on the running game in the second half was part pre-game study and in-game strategy.
“We got the chance to see how they’re lining up, and we liked the angles and we felt like we liked the matchups if we could our down blocks and get our guys around,” Hoff said.
“We liked our options on the edge. But really it was just our o-line blocking, getting a hat on a hat and doing their job. They enjoy playing physical football, and I think what you saw is them playing as a unit, getting their feet underneath them and just executing and being physical.”
The sea-saw continued on Newton’s next drive, with quarterback LT Stowers placing a perfect dart in the hands of junior wideout Robert Lewis who streaked down the seam past his defender on a 42-yard touchdown pass, putting the Rams back up 20-17. The drive took a grand total of 39 seconds.
After that, Eastside’s defense bowed up, forcing Newton to a 3-and-out, and 10 plays later, Mote drilled a 33-yard field goal to knot things at 20 with 27.3 seconds left in the third.
Eastside’s Jaylen Atlow would then come up big for the Eagles defensively as he sacked Stowers for a big loss of 13 yards when Newton had a chance to convert a 2nd and 1 on its next possession.
Instead, the Rams would punt, and then Eastside would go back to work on the ground, with an 8-play, 54-yard all-running plays march capped off by Carter’s 1-yard touchdown, catching a bad snap with one hand from the wildcat formation. The score put Eastside back on top for good, 27-20 with 9:31 left in the game.
The Rams had a chance toward the end to tie the ball game, as Howard led them on a drive that started at their own 26 and progressed inside the Eastside 5-yard line, thanks to three straight Thomas carries for 38 yards that gave Newton a 1st-and-goal situation.
From there, however, Howard threw three straight incompletions, including overthrowing Jerrol Hines who was wide open in the end zone, and then an interception to AJ Royal who returned it 37 yards, basically squashing Newton’s hopes for a come back.
“You find out a lot about your character when things go wrong,” Newton coach Terrance Banks said. “Do we pout? Or do we go back to work Sunday and Monday? I’m heartbroken. Very disappointed, and I know our boys are too. But we’ll go back to work Monday and try to get better so that the next time you see us, we’ll have cleaned up these mistakes.”
Newton drew first blood as Adarius Thomas took an inside handoff on a 4th and 1 play, and sliced through the Eastside defense, spinning his way out of a tackle and sprinting down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown run.
Both defense bowed up regularly, particularly as both teams tried to establish the run, but for Newton, mistakes and penalties halted promising drives. Case in point: After DeJuan Brown mishandled a punt that arguably should’ve been called an Eastside safety, the Rams would go on 13-play drive that took them deep into Eastside territory, and after a LT Stowers pass to Khalil Wilcox went 27 yards, it looked like Newton would punch one in.
But a holding penalty negated the big play, and then coach Terrance Banks drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while protesting the call, which led to a loss of downs and possession turned over to Eastside.
The Eagles would capitalize as Noah Cook connected with Taylor Carter for a 15-yard pickup which would set up Kade Mote for a 39-yard field goal to cut the lead in half to 6-3 which it would remain at halftime.
Newton had one last chance at points before the half, as quarterback Neal Howard benefited from a pass interference call while Taylor Carter tried to cover Diondre Glover on a pass play. Howard would then get sacked by Colby Shivers on the next play, but followed it up with an 18-yard strike to Glover and a 5-yard pass to Thomas.
The last play of the second quarter was a completed pass from Howard to Glover for no gain, and time expired as Newton couldn’t get to the line in time to kill the clock.
The loss dropped Newton’s record to 1-1 while giving Eastside a 2-0 start to the season — both wins against schools from bigger classifications.
And while it’s sweet, both Hoff and Cook say the celebration will be short lived.
“Winning this, it motivates us a lot,” Cook said. “We’re glad we beat them, but we have to put it in the rearview mirror again and keep going.”
“Twenty-four hours,” he said. “That’s how long we enjoy it, and then it’s back to work on Sunday and hitting the field Monday. You’ve gotta win those days, Monday through Thursday, before you can win Fridays. We have to know there’s someone waiting for you around the corner next week.”