BUFORD, Ga - It was a tale of two halves as the Newton Rams fell in a tough loss to the Buford Wolves that was close in the onset of the game but slowly slipped from the Rams in a 42-14 final.
The Rams grabbed an early lead after some strong defensive play as running back Quincy Cullins scored the opening touchdown of the game with multiple Wolves trying to bring him down on a 17-yard scamper to the endzone.
Cullins ran tough, and the Rams rushing attack did an excellent job of making the first man miss and earning positive yardage in the early stages of the game.
Cullins finished his night with an unofficial 50 yards and one touchdown on 9 carries. He had a few flash plays that stood out, but the Wolves did an excellent job of holding him up at the line of scrimmage.
Jerrol Hines was Mr. Consistency for the Rams and seemed to earn multiple first downs in crucial third-down situations. Hines finished with 109 receiving yards on 11 catches and was quarterback Neal Howard's favorite target on the night. Rams head coach Camiel Grant Jr. was very pleased with Hines performance but not surprised in any way.
"Jerrol is a leader. He practices hard every day, so the result shows up on the field on Friday night," said Grant. "It's not a surprise when we see him play that way, but it's always fun to watch, and we can count on him."
Diondre Glover Jr. also had a solid night as the Rams leading receiver in yardage with 118 receiving yards and one touchdown on 4 catches. Glover had the bulk of his yardage on a long touchdown pass that came in the 3rd quarter.
It was ultimately the Rams inability to take advantage of particular opportunities and a few costly mistakes that eventually cost them in the end.
The Rams had two costly turnovers in the first half that the Wolves converted to points. An interception deep on the Rams side of the field and a fumble at midfield gave the Wolves very favorable field position.
The Wolves two touchdowns came on the first two passes from scrimmage for quarterback Jarvis Evans Jr. as he find his wide receivers on a 31-yard pass and an 11-yard pass.
One big missed opportunity for the Rams came on a 4th and goal opportunity from the two-yard line. The Rams elected to go for it, and Cullins was stuffed at the line with around a minute left before halftime.
Had the Rams found a way to get the ball in the endzone, the complexion of this game would have been very different heading into halftime.
That missed touchdown was the difference between being down seven points heading into the half and being all tied at 14. It also did not help the fact that Buford had the ball to start the second half.
The Rams defensive efforts were outstanding in the opening half, and they did an excellent job of stopping the Wolves running back Elijah Turner. Grant overall was pleased with his defense's efforts and very proud of how they performed.
"I think the defense played well, even throughout the game, but especially in the first hale," said Grant. "They fought all night, man. We had thought about what we had to do slow down their run game, and I think we did a good job of it."
Turner exploded on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for a 51-yad touchdown run that made it 21-7 and really put the game out of reach. Turner finished his night with 135 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 carries.
The Wolves started to run away with the game in the third quarter. With the Rams inside their own five-yard line, Neal Howard was forced in a tough third-down passing situation.
The Wolves rushed Howard and ultimately had him in the grasp when he attempted to get the ball out to avoid a safety. This plan backfired as a Wolves defender picked the pass off and ran it in for a touchdown, extending the Wolves lead to 28-7.
A shining moment for the Rams in the second half was a long 75-yard touchdown to Diondre Glover Jr. that brought the Rams closer but not close enough to mount a comeback.
The Wolves would add on a few more scores through the air and on the ground and would ultimately prevail. This was a hard loss for the Rams, and Grant said that he wants to see his team put forth more effort in games where they are down.
He believes how they perform in those situations will play a significant role in how they perform in their region this season.
"These are the types of ball games that we are going to be in, in our region," said Grant. "This was a great test for us and I think it's going to be a good teaching tool for what we want and what we don't want."
The Rams will go on the road again for their next matchup as they face the Westlake Lions at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27.