COVINGTON - The Newton Rams have their last chance to go out as winners when they head to Henry County to face the Union Grove Wolverines at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
While a win would not mean a trip to the Class AAAAA playoffs, it does mean a win for Newton's program.
"I want to send these seniors out with more than just parting gifts; I want to send them out with a win," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "But I want a win going into the offseason because that's what we talk about all offseason was the last game, the win, the feeling. It would mean a lot to this program to get a win. I want to get some positive things to build on for the future, that's the main thing. For us, we have to go into the offseason on a positive note, there's no way around it."
Collins is hoping that his Rams (1-8 overall, 1-5 Region 2-AAAAA) can beat Union Grove (2-7, 1-5) using the future - freshmen. Even though they are not ready and Collins is in a position he doesn't want to be in, he hopes they will be able to overcome any difficulties and use the game as a building block.
"It's sad that the program's in the situation that it's in, that we had to come in and play those guys," he said. "But if you're going to build a program right, sometimes you're going to take a couple of steps backwards before you move forward. It's not what I wanted to do. I wanted to come in here and establish some wins right off the bat and get people excited about that. We told some of the kids last week that realistically they're not supposed to be here."
While freshman quarterback Kenneth Patrick has been feeling the heat for the most of the season, Newton will add running backs Devanner Gibson, Chris Dickerson and D.J. Hill and wide receiver Akeem Hunt to the mix, giving them a chance to prove themselves.
If the young guns are to give Newton a victory, they will have to do something that the Rams have not been able to do all year - establish a running game.
Collins feels that if they can spread the Wolverines' defense, his team will have a chance to move the ball on the ground.
"It's not a secret; we just haven't been very good up front," he said. "That's always a key to a ballgame, it's what going to happen to us up front. We were able to pass protect well against Stephenson, but what wouldn't allow us to stay in that ball game was that we couldn't run the football."
By establishing the run, the Rams will be able to give Patrick the opportunity to throw the ball. Last week against Douglass, the Astros were able to shut down Newton's passing game, knowing that the Rams could not run the ball. This week, Collins is hoping to give Patrick the time to find his receivers. If Patrick can't find the time, he will have another rough week.
"Last week, Douglass did a real good job of taking away our lateral passing game. We have to be able to get control of that again and be able to throw the football down the field when we want to," Collins said. "If he's going to be a big-time quarterback he might as well go through those pains now. We're not going to alter anything or do anything different to try to cover up to do anything to protect him. He's going to have to learn to battle through it; that's what we're preaching to him. He has to learn how to battle through the tough times because we don't expect the tough times to last."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: Newton at Union Grove
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Series: Union Grove leads series 3-0, beat Newton last year 20-13
Last week: Newton lost to Douglass 47-0; Union Grove lost 36-8 to Stephenson.