This blog from The News’ sports contributor Daniel Richardson is for documenting and discussing some of the overarching themes of the week or something he found interesting that week. Each week we’ll go dive into whatever that is and try to add some perspective.
COVINGTON, Ga -- Newton High’s Friday game on the road against the South Gwinnett Comets was game that did not feature much offense from either team, but it did show me something about the Rams and how they’re approaching this season. After the game, I chatted with Rams head coach Camiel Grant Jr. and congratulated him on a good game, and he immediately pushed back on that notion.
“I think we played hard -- I can agree with that,” Grant said. “We got a lot of stuff, we got to clean up. We took some steps back, I felt coaching wise, we got to do a better job.”
Quarterback Neal Howard shared his coach’s sentiments and told me that the player view was that they should have dominated the Comets. Howard, in particular, had a rough game in terms of the physicality of the game. One coach after the game noted that Howard would need a long ice bath after that one.
Junior defensive end Elijah Johnson of South Gwinnett wreaked havoc in the Rams’ backfield all game. Newton had very little time to make plays and seemed to be rushing a little bit. In the process, Howard took some big hits. And of course, when Newton has scored 152 points through five games – not counting Friday’s 19 points – the plan every game should be to stifle its dynamic offense. Yet, Howard, Jerrol Hines, Robert Lewis, and Diondre Glover kept composure for most of the game.
The game had its tense moments between two competitive teams, but Howard showed his maturity and leadership and made his best Spiderman-holding-the-ferry-together impression.
However, its Newton’s defense that deserves the game ball for its performance.
It wasn’t just South Gwinnett doling out the punishment. Newton had to rely on their defense to keep them in the game, and the defense delivered. South Gwinnett got into scoring position multiple times throughout the evening, but Newton employed the “bend but don’t break” philosophy and held steady all night.
Nyland Green’s interception and touchdown in the fourth quarter was the epitome of the defense’s performance: being in the right place at the right time to make the necessary play.
What Friday night showed me was that has Covington and Newton County enters the second half of the football season, Grant’s Newton team has the poise and confidence to make a possible run at a region title. The atmosphere of Friday’s game was palpable with South Gwinnett hosting Newton during homecoming. The Comets were on the field 90 minutes before tip and were rightfully amped for the game. When Newton showed up for warm-ups about an hour before tip, South Gwinnett’s energy picked up, and they wanted Newton to feel it.
Newton remained focused and exuded a quiet confidence, that seemed to say, “we hear you, and we’re just as ready as you are.” And when the game started, they let their play do the talking – as is customary for the Rams. They’re a squad of flashy playmakers who approach preparation with a seriousness that belies the exuberant personalities on the team.
With Grant as head coach and the staff in place, the Rams have a chance to make the rest of the year a season to remember.