After a week off, the Newton Rams get back at it when they visit Northview. Eastside is also in action when they host Jackson at Sharp Stadium. Both games are at 7:30.
Eastside found some offense last week when they beat Locust Grove in the region opener. Cameron Boyd had his best game of his young career, throwing two touchdowns and surpassing the 200-yard mark for the first time. Boyd will look to build off that when the Eagles take on Jackson.
The running game had a good opening week but has stumbled a bit over the past two weeks. Chavis Griggs and Jomandi Smith are the workhorses and will see plenty of action as the Eagles continue to look for some continuity in the running game.
Defensively the Eagles are second in the region in points allowed. Jackson doesn't possess a high-powered offense so the Eagles will have plenty of offensive opportunities. Against Locust Grove, the Eagles gave up some yardage in the second half but managed to limit the Wildcats to just one score. The Eagles should be able to again control the line of scrimmage but the key tonight will be how well the offensive line can run block.
For the Rams, tonight's game will be another step in preparing for region play, which opens next week. Before they host Newnan though, they'll have to get past a team they handled fairly easily last year.
On paper, this is a game the Rams should win. They pounded Northview at home 37-7 last year and probably could have won by a larger margin as they overmatched the Titans in every facet of the game. But that was last year's team and this is a new group.
One of the new faces on offense is running back Javonte Williams. In the first two games, he's scored a rushing touchdown including the game winner against Eastside. His other was an 83-yard scamper against Shiloh in Newton's opener. Williams has shown the big-play speed typically showcased by a Newton back but can also pick up the tough yards. He'll split time with BJ Reid who is also off to a nice start. Darius Dean is Newton's third back and also brings edge-clearing speed as a member of the Rams Class AAAAA state champion 4x100 meter relay team.
The running game hasn't been the problem. It's the passing game that has coaches concerned. First-year quarterback Gmatreian Brown is off to a rough start and the passing game has yet to click. Part of that has to do with facing Eastside's defense two weeks ago and part of it is lack of repetitions. Against the Eagles in particular, Brown struggled to find a rhythm. Brown's best option is Deshaun McKenzie. In two games, McKenzie is Newton's leading receiver. He has shown the ability to make catches in traffic and is a relatively big target with good speed. Once he and Brown do start to click, the two could evolve into a lethal tandem. The Rams will still look to maintain about a 60-40 run to pass ration thus putting an even larger premium on Brown's ability to read defenses.
Fortunately for Brown and the Rams, the defense has played well early on. Against Eastside, Newton held the Eagles to a three-and-out on three of their last four possessions deep in their own territory when the game was on the line. Kingsley Ejike, Tyrique Brown and Antonio Williams are the catalysts and each bring speed and power to their respective positions. That's really where Newton's excels - in the speed rush game. Save for a dropped interception by Antonio Williams that would have been a sure touchdown last week, the defense has played essentially error free and has yet to give up a big play.
The other aspect Newton will look to continue to build upon is special teams. In both the kicking game and punt block, Newton's special teams are a legitimate weapon. Northview will have its hands full when dropping back to punt. Every one will be an adventure. Case in point, against Eastside it seemed like a matter of time before Newton would come through with a punt block. Late in the fourth quarter, the Rams did block a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a safety. The kicking game has been solid too. Zack Sullivan did yeoman's work last week in consistently pinning Eastside inside its own 20 in the second half. Newton won the field position throughout the fourth quarter and when you do that enough, eventually good things happen.
Newton needs a win in order to keep building momentum. A loss would be a setback after two solid games, especially with Newnan on the horizon. The Rams went down and snatched a win from the Cougars after a spirited second-half rally, a feat rarely pulled off against such a quality opponent. That's sure to be extra motivation when they hit town next week.
Newton must take care of business tonight and keep its focus. This has classic trap game written all over it. The Rams should make enough plays on defense and special teams that they could probably afford subpar effort from the offense. That won't fly next week and that will likely be the mindset.