What a weekend.
What a week, in general, for Newton County athletics, in particular, Newton County football. For the second straight season, Newton County’s three main GHSA teams went 3-0. When you factor in Social Circle, a town which lies partly in Newton and Walton counties, you can say, 4-0.
But here’s the thing: Last year’s 3-0 for Alcovy, Eastside and Newton didn’t look like it did this year.
Our teams looked dominant. Even Social Circle’s 42-13 win on the road at Johnson (Gainesville) was more than solid.
Our teams looked fast and physical. Newton’s got some penalty problems to clean up, and Alcovy and Eastside want to continue to see how their offensive and defensive lines continue to grow. But what I saw on on the Sharp Stadium turf over the week and weekend were teams that look competitive.
These teams look like they belong among the other squads in their region. Heck, they look like they can contend with many other squads in the state, period.
So let me just toss out some team-by-team accolades and observations for this first week, in alphabetical order, just to put a nice, neat bow on things as we get ready to move forward into a much anticipated county rivalry.
The temptation in the first week of the season is to overreact to everything. Whether a win or a loss — good performance or bad. So I’ll try to refrain from that, but I saw what I saw. And what I saw was an Alcovy football team that has enviable skill position talent littered all over the field.
Cameron Anderson, the junior quarterback, has a live arm, not to mention quicker and faster feet than I thought. But the thing that’s impressed me most about him from offseason to now, is his intangible leadership ability. He just looks like the guy people feed off of for leadership.
The receiving corps. It’s been easy to talk about Anderson, Quindrelin Hammonds and even the Robinson twins. Those are the stars who easily standout. But Alcovy’s got a set of receivers that would make a lot of high school offensive coordinators drool:
Dee Fanning. The 6-foot-2, 185 pound receiver made several acrobatic catches against Duluth Friday, particularly one where he high-pointed the ball for a 33-yard gain near the sideline.
Jairus Anthony. After Anthony made a touchdown grab against Miller Grove in a scrimmage two Fridays ago, Edgar said the 6-foot-1 senior was “unguardable” during summer 7-on-7 work. It looks like that slippery characteristic is carrying over into the season.
Then there are guys like Nico Johnson and Kameron Phuong. It’s a solid group. And as impressive as they were, the Tigers were playing without Adrian Robinson who sat out from the Duluth game with injury. Edgar said there were still some parts of their offensive arsenal they held back.
The trenchmen. We’ve talked a lot about the offensive line’s perceived weakness, but against Miller Grove and Duluth, the Tigers were aggressive up front, gave push when needed and did yeomans work protecting Anderson. On the other side, junior defensive end Jalen Banks who, with 3 1/2 sacks and several tackles for loss in the opener, looks like a star in the making.
The last name I want to mention here is defensive back, Jakob Streeter. You look at him, and you don’t see a huge physical specimen. But he may be the hardest hitting DB I’ve seen this weekend. Keep an eye on his growth through the season.
Maybe it wasn’t a shock to everyone to see sophomore quarterback Noah Cook under center Friday against Luella, but for those who’d been expecting 2016 All-Region receiver Brayden Harper to be taking the snaps, it was quite the change. But it worked.
Cook and Harper hooked up multiple times for big gainers, and the young signal caller also showed good decision making in his ability to get the ball out to other talented guys on the outside like Jamari Brown and Jerry Mays.
The running backs look especially special. Of course we all know about Taylor Carter, but the Rockdale High transfer duo of Jordan Rogers and Tyon Davis boost the profile of the Eagles’ offense immensely. Both showed speed, burst and versatility, as Rogers threw a perfect pass to Harper for the Eagles’ first score. And Davis has speed and toughness for days. Go to our Twitter page (@CovNewsSports) and find the highlight of Davis running over a Luella defender in the end zone. You’ll also see how South Carolina football commit Lamarius Benson blew up the linebacker on that same play.
Defensively speaking, Benson and Spurgeon Gaither are stout up front. But Brown showed his prowess on both sides of the ball, grabbing a pick, making several big tackles and showing his skill in the return game.
Kudos to the coaching staff for the shrewd move of silently preparing Harper and Cook simultaneously to be trade-offs at the quarterback position. With two able bodied passers and Harper’s ability to stay in his receiver spot, the Eagles offense just got that much more versatile.
Coach Terrance Banks told a great story at the Kiwanis Club last week of how his team — particularly his returning seniors — called him on the carpet for not pushing them as hard as they wanted to be pushed last season. We’ll share that story later in the week. But suffice it to say, Newton played on Thursday like a “pushed” team.
Dominant. Physical. Relentless. And, yes, a little mistake prone. But some of that is to be expected in game one of the season. Of course we all know about Nuru Tinch, the sculpted 6-foot, 215-pound specimen who’s committed to UAB. Had he played the entire game, Tinch would’ve eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark easily. Then, Adarius “Dee Dee” Thomas” is smaller, but almost just as good.
What we didn’t count on was the emergence of senior Ryan Burton. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound tailback also eclipsed the 100 yard mark against Drew, and also did it largely in one half. You put that three-headed tailback monster behind the behemoth offensive line and add in a savvy senior quarterback in Myron Middlebrooks, and this could be a really special year for Newton.
The defense showed me a lot, also. Darnell Jefferies is who he is. But keep watch for Brandon Green. At times, the 6-foot-1, 260-pound senior looked just as fast and explosive off the ball. Fellow senior Christian Murray also made big plays in the opponent’s offensive backfield. The secondary saw solid play from Naval Academy commit, Jaison Taylor, but a guy who’s also impressed early on is junior corner, Tim Newton.
Newton found himself on an island with receivers several times, both against Drew and in the Cedar Grove scrimmage, and he consistently made big time pass breakups, while also delivering monster hits to pass catchers. He’s got much potential.
Our Football Preview
The support and feedback you gave us regarding our 2017 Newton County football preview was nothing short of amazing, and we thank you. If you didn’t get one, we still have a few more available at our office on 1166 Usher Street, Covington, GA. And depending on what’s left, we may pass some out during this coming week’s home games.
We’ve heard so much positivity from you all regarding our sports coverage, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking for ways to keep pushing the envelope to be better. Ultimately, our efforts aren’t about us. They’re about putting our student-athletes, coaches and athletic teams in the best and brightest light possible.
Also, it’s about you, our valued readers. We want to keep giving you the best, most comprehensive coverage of our county possible. So if at anytime you’d like to submit a story idea, coverage idea or just provide some feedback, I’d love to hear from you.
Email me: email@example.com, or call me: (678) 939-8808, and let’s chat!