It was a familiar sight just before halftime: Union Grove defensive end Anthony Williams swimming around the lineman instructed to block him, running full speed at Newton's quarterback and taking him to the ground.
It's why the marquee college programs, institutions of fine football pedigree like Florida, Auburn, Georgia, Clemson, LSU and Georgia Tech, are ready to offer the 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior scholarships. They see him dominate the line of scrimmage like he did in Union Grove's 43-10 victory over Newton on Friday night at home.
Williams had two sacks, a blocked punt and a forced fumble that led to a decisive touchdown to help the Wolverines (8-1, 5-1 in Region 2-AAAAA) rebound from its lone loss of the season, a 25-0 defeat by Stephenson.
"We had a little choke up last week," Williams said. "That kind of boosted up our confidence to come out here this week and do better than last week."
Union Grove had already built a double-digit lead when Williams came around the left side and forced a fumble by Newton quarterback Demetrius McCray. Linebacker Dareon Mays recovered the fumble and ran it back 40 yards to give the Wolverines a 21-3 lead with 1:39 left in the first half.
"Defense started off slow," Mays said. "And then we started getting into our rhythm. Then I got the fumble, and the momentum changed. After that the momentum changed."
Union Grove's defense continued its dominating play that has already catapulted the Wolverines into the playoffs. There was Brandon Robertson's interception that set-up freshman T.J. Moon's 3-yard touchdown run. Williams' blocked punt set-up an easy three-play sequence that ended with Kyle Kersey's 2-yard touchdown run to make it 34-10 with 10:18 left in the game.
The Rams (3-6, 2-4) managed just 189 total yards of offense. McCray completed 11 of 21 passes for 97 yards and threw the interception to Robertson. The Wolverines stiff defense helped them pull to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter and force Newton's run-oriented attack to take its chances through the air.
"They forced us to do what we don't do, which is throw the football," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "We threw the football more in the first half than we've thrown it probably in the last three games. They're a big athletic team. My hat's off to (Union Grove coach) Steven (Collins). He's doing a great job."
Indeed, Steven Collins' task this week was to rally his team after a disappointing performance against Stephenson with a marquee match-up against M.L. King looming.
The Union Grove coach knew there would be no Donovan Johnson at running back again. He decided to rest his star tail back one more week to get him closer to full-strength against M.L. King.
So it was freshman Moon that carried the load again. Moon ran 21 times for 150 yards with one touchdown and caught one pass for a touchdown. He bulldozed through the line when he needed to, like on his 3-yard touchdown run. And he flashed his explosive athleticism, like on a 34-yard run down the left sideline that moved the Wolverines from deep in its own territory.
"He looked good," Steven Collins said. "I forget sometimes he's just a ninth-grader. He's a very mature young man, well-composed and sees things. He's got a lot of God-given ability, that's for sure."