Newton has points to make vs. Stephenson

COVINGTON - Before the Newton Rams can beat Stephenson on Saturday at Homer Sharp Stadium they must do something they have not been able to do in three tries - score.

The Jaguars (6-1, 3-1) have outscored Newton (1-6, 1-3) 125-0 in their last three outings as the Rams try to break the goose egg at the 8 p.m. kickoff.

"One of our goals is to score points," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "If we don't do that, nothing matters."

However, Newton has their hands full against Stephenson, which is ranked No. 7 in this week's Associated Press high school football poll.

In seven games, Stephenson has scored 189 points, which is four less than the Rams defense have allowed all season.

"They're good. This team is as talented as any team in Georgia; they're not a slouch," Collins said. "But somehow we got it into our heads that we have no business to be on the same field as Stephenson. We need to change that mind-set. They have to do what they're coached to do and not be afraid of the name."

Defensively, the Jaguars have given up eight fewer points than the 50 Newton has put on the board.

For Newton to score and pull off the upset, the Rams will have to find a way to get past Stephenson's defense.

It's something that Collins knows won't be easy, but it's something that can be done.

"We can't make mistakes; we made too many mistakes against MLK. We did more to stop ourselves than they did," Collins said. "We need to do good things. They're a fast team, and we need to find a way to make plays."

No matter if the Rams try to run the pass or go in the air, they will have several obstacles in their way.

In the air, they must contend with Jared Clendenin, who leads Stephenson with two interceptions.

Also causing havoc for the Jaguars are Damien Whitten and Joshua Williams, who have five sacks each.

Running the ball also will be a challenge for Newton. Helping keep Stephenson's opponents to fewer than 80 yards per game on the ground and 60 in the air are junior linebacker Nigel Mitchell-Thornton and junior Samuel McClain.

Mitchell-Thornton leads the team in tackles, averaging 10 tackles per game while McClain is the team leader stopping the ballcarrier behind the line of scrimmage nine times.

"He (Mitchell-Thornton) is good. When he hits you, everyone in the stadium knows it," Collins said.

Clarence Young also does some damage in the backfield, with eight tackles for loss. Three other Stephenson players have seven.

Through six games, the Jaguars have taken the ball away from the opposing offense 16 times - 12 fumbles and four interceptions.

Offensively, the Jaguars are led by running back Jerome Rudolph.

Rudolph has paced Stephenson through six games with 458 yards on 55 carries, averaging a touchdown every 7 carries.

He also has two 100-yard games to his credit, rushing for 127 against McNair and 116 against Lithonia.

Although the Jaguars are not primarily a throwing team, they still have the ability to do so.

Quarterback Rashaad Carter has thrown for 369 yards and four touchdowns. However, the one chink in his armor this season is two interceptions.

Stephenson has returned two punts all the way for scores, one for 60 yards against Towers and one for 50 against Lithonia.

"We can't combat speed. You either have speed or you chase it," Collins said. "They've never been taught to play fast."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: Stephenson at Newton

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: Homer Sharp Stadium

Series: Stephenson leads series 3-0. The Jaguars beat the Rams 37-0 last season.

Last week: Stephenson beat Redan 15-14; Newton lost to M.L. King 47-12