Newton High football, under current third-year head coach Terrance Banks, has pretty much been known as a passing team. But this year the Rams are running the ball down the opposition's throat and it has led to a 5-1 start and, on Friday night, probably the biggest region win during Banks's tenure.
Although it was just the first region game of the year, the contest against Tucker on Friday had the biggest implications. This game would decide Region 2-AAAAAA. It was the talk among media members in the press box at Adams Stadium. Everybody in the stadium knew it.
So did Banks, though he'll never say it in public. He'll tell you the Rams want to go “1-0 every week or every day” – that’s what he’s supposed to say – and while that may be true he knows the best team in the region last year was Tucker. Banks knows Newton had to get through them to win a region championship and get a No. 1 seed.
And I think they will.
Newton is going to run the table for the rest of region play. It's set up perfectly for the Rams, if healthy and humble, to run the gauntlet.
The Rams remaining schedule consists of a home game against county rival Alcovy on Friday, a road contest against Lovejoy two weeks from Friday and the season ends with Lakeside and Rockdale at home.
They've taken down Tucker, the best of the best, and the toughest team to face now is Lovejoy. A team the Rams will get two weeks to prepare for.
Both Alcovy and Rockdale field young teams this year and both are 1-5 with Alcovy's lone win coming this past Friday against Lakeside. Lakeside is 3-3 this season and Lovejoy is 2-4. Their records don't matchup against Newton's 5-1 record.
Its because of Newton's hard-hitting defense and it's balanced offensive attack that the Rams are so dangerous.
Looking at the win against Tucker, Newton beat the Tigers at their own game - running the ball. They also played great defense and made key plays in the passing game when they needed to.
Newton’s junior running back Kurt Taylor Jr. finished the contest with 21 carries for 149 yards – unofficially – and four touchdowns. Johnson totaled 19 completions with over 250 yards passing with almost half of that yardage going to senior receiver Deandre Huff, who had six catches for 121 yards.
This isn’t the only game Newton has showed its ability to run the ball to win a game. The Rams ran for over 200 yards in a 27-7 win against Westlake, which is a testament to Newton’s offensive line. The o-line has played well this season, and it showed against Tucker.
Johnson went untouched in the pocket for the majority of the night, allowing him to make big plays in the passing game. The Rams finished the game with 15 plays of 10 yards or more. You don’t do that without good blocking from the offensive line.
The Rams made mistakes in the game, but came away with a 17-point victory. Johnson missed a couple receivers that were wide open and would’ve had big gains, and Huff dropped what would’ve been another long touchdown pass.
“We got some stuff to go clean up, but I thought the boys played well,” Banks said. “They played the next play. They fought. They played 48 minutes. It was a great team effort, the boys did an outstanding job.”
The defense played lights out. Newton forced five three-and-outs and two turnovers on 11 drive opportunities. UCLA commit Jaquan Henderson is always good, but Quentin Dixon, along with the defensive line, stood out amongst a great team effort on defense from the Rams.
“He’s a smart kid,” Banks said about Dixon. “Very high GPA, he does everything he’s supposed to do and what he did was he was able to know the alignments and make sure we were in the right spot, that’s his job. And by doing that the defense played very well.”
After the game, Banks gave his usual 1-0 every week spiel, but you could see it in his face. This win was huge for Newton as a program and for the chance to claim the Region 2-AAAAAA title.
“1-0 everyday. This is gonna be a fantastic 24 hours to savor, but come Sunday we gotta get ready to defend our home turf. It’s gonna field good to be back at home to play Alcovy, it’s a rivalry game and they’re gonna give us their best shot,” Banks said.