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Rams rise and run past Alcovy in weather-shortened 2018 season opener
Mike Mathison
Newton senior wideout, Mike Mathison has pledged his service to Akron and former Chattanooga coach, Tom Arth.

COVINGTON, Ga. — The lightening in the sky stopped the action from continuing past the third quarter, but it was the first quarter fireworks from Mike Mathison that sealed Alcovy’s fate early. 

Mathison’s pair of touchdowns helped jump start Newton, and the combined efforts of quarterbacks Neal Howard and LT Stowers — not to mention a defense that surrendered just 143 yards of total offense —  paced the Rams to a 37-3 season opening win over Alcovy Friday night at Sharp Stadium

For Newton head coach Terrance Banks, it was a satisfying way to open the 2018 campaign. 

“I was proud of the way our boys finished,” Banks said. “We had a lot of motivation coming into this one. But we’ve got some things to clean up and do, but overall, as coaches we’re proud of our boys’ fight. That’s the biggest thing. The way my boys competed for as long as the game was in.” 

Newton couldn’t have drawn up a better start to the start of the season, as UT-Chattanooga commit Michael Mathison took the opening kickoff of the year 85 yards for a touchdown, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead just 11 seconds into the game. 

Alcovy’s first offensive drive stalled out, but the Tigers got a gift when Newton quarterback Neal Howard, who drew the start, initiated a fumbled handoff, and Jalen Banks scooped it up from the Newton 34 and rumbled to the 12-yard line, putting Alcovy in prime field position. 

But once again, the Tigers went three-plays-and-out on offense, and had to settle for a 30-yard field goal which chopped Newton’s advantage back to 7-3 at the 7:01 mark in the first quarter. 

Newton’s offense got on track as Howard re-entered the game for the next drive despite the turnover, and threw a 46-yard dart to Mathison who took it down to the 8-yard line. Alcovy’s red zone defense bowed up, though, causing Newton to rest on the leg of Abdiel Velasquez for a 23-yard field goal. 

The Rams would get the ball back after their defense halted another Alcovy drive, but the turnover bug bit again as quarterback LT Stowers fumbled the exchange on a zone-read play and Banks picked up his second fumble recovery of the night, putting Alcovy on Newton’s side of the field again. 

Offensive miscues would keep Alcovy off the board once more, as Simmons couldn’t grab a high snap on 3rd and 3 at the Newton 19. He ended up having to take a 20 yard loss. 

Newton had several chances to extend its lead in the first half, but a 55-yard Jerrol Hines touchdown run was called back for an illegal block, and a 92-yard TD by Adarius Thomas on a Howard jump pass was negated for an ineligible receiver down field penalty. 

The Rams would get it back, though, when Howard connected with Mathison again, time on a 46-yard scoring strike that gave Newton a 17-3 lead with 16 seconds left in regulation. That score would stand at halftime, and it provided further proof to all watching about the kind of competitor Mathison is. 

“What’s best about Mike is he’s not a talker,” Banks said. “But he’s a worker. And every time he plays, he plays with that chip on his shoulder. And that’s what we tell him. You’ve gotta go hard because you’re good, but there are a ton of other good players, and the moment you don’t go hard, they pass you. He’s really taken that to heart.”

Newton would turn things up a notch on both sides of the ball early in the third quarter, as Alcovy’s opening drive went three-and-out and Stowers and company only needed four plays to light up the scoreboard again. 

In fact, it was Stowers’ 27-yard touchdown pass to Robert Lewis on a seam route on fourth down that stretched Newton’s lead to 24-3 at the 8:26 mark of the third quarter. Banks said he was delighted with the way both his quarterbacks played.

“They made some small mistakes,” he said. “They had some jitters, but they knew they were both gonna play. Once they settled down and settled their jitters, they played fine.” 

On the first play of Alcovy’s ensuing drive, it was time for Newton’s defense to get in the act of scoring. And it happened when middle linebacker Cozbi Craig essentially ended things with a 22-yard scoop-and-score.

Things went from bad to worse on Alcovy’s drive after Craig’s defensive touchdown, as Alcovy quarterback Nick Simmons threw a pass that bounced off the hands of Caleb Brown and into Josh Hardeman’s grasp. 

Three plays later, Thomas was spinning his way into the end zone on a 17-yard scoring scamper that pushed Newton’s lead to 37-3. 

Shortly after, the lightening began flashing at a more frequent rate, and after several extended delays, both coaches agreed to let the game end with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. 

For Alcovy head coach Chris Edgar, although the score was lopsided, he remained optimistic that his squad isn’t as far away as perhaps the scoreboard indicated. 

“Going into the half, I felt we were two plays away from it being a 3-3 ballgame,” Edgar said. “We had a blown coverage, and then we had a blown coverage on the kickoff to start the game, and those are mental things that can be corrected. Newton’s too good of a team for you to make mental mistakes. They don’t need that help. I don’t think my guys quit. I just think we had too many mental lapses, and those are things we can fix.” 

Newton (1-0) will be back at Sharp next Friday to face who Banks called “our biggest rival in Eastside.” Meanwhile, Alcovy will host Rockdale at Sharp Stadium on Thursday night. 

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