COVINGTON - Akeem Hunt had at least 82 reasons to smile Saturday night.
After all, the sophomore running back helped lead Newton to a 22-15 win over McIntosh at Homer Sharp Stadium with an 82-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"It just felt good," Hunt said. "All I had to do was just keep my head in the game and run behind my blockers. It's all about my blockers; it ain't about me, it's about the blockers. That's how I got it."
Hunt finished with 101 yards rushing on six carries, averaging 16.8 yards per carry en route to Newton's first win of the year.
"There's a different feeling in our camp now," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "It's different when you go out hoping to win instead of going out expecting to win. And the thing I stressed all week was we're supposed to win this game - ain't no hope, ain't no wish, we're supposed to win."
After holding the Chiefs (1-1) to four-and-out on their opening possession, the Rams (1-1) struck first. Ten plays into the opening drive, D.J. Hill scored on a 16-yard touchdown run at the 4:34 mark.
It was the first points scored by Newton this season, after losing 3-0 to county rival Alcovy in its opener.
The Rams struck again with 23 seconds left until halftime after a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Demetrius McCray. A direct snap to McCray for the two-point conversion gave the Rams a comfortable 15-0 lead entering halftime.
Late in the third quarter, McIntosh quarterback Cam Porter scampered up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown.
After several penalties, the 23-yard PAT by Matt Mateos cut the Newton lead to 15-7 with just 10 seconds remaining until the fourth quarter.
Fifteen seconds into the final quarter, Hunt was off to the races, finding an opening up the right side for 82 yards.
"It was a big win," Hunt said. "We needed a win going into (this) week against Eastside."
Two of the blockers on the offensive front assisting Hunt were Timarcus Aiken and Robert Lackey - the unsung heroes of the game's biggest highlight.
"They did a great job on that right side," Collins praised.
McIntosh turned it over on its very next possession. After a sack by Newton's Cadarius Terrell, Deandre Rashada intercepted Porter.
Nevertheless, the Chiefs scored on their next possession after Porter threw a 14-yard touchdown strike to receiver Bradley Larson with 6:59 remaining.
On the ensuing two-point conversion try, Nathan Enzor caught a deflected pass for the Chiefs, making it 22-15.
"We gotta get better," Collins noted. "We had a drop-off on defense a little bit. We gotta go back and re-evaluate where we went wrong and fix it, because against a team like Eastside you cannot make mistakes."
Yet after a four-and-out and 4:36 left on the clock, it was time for the Newton defense to step up when it counted.
With a vengeance, it did.
Soon after a sack by Michael Morgan - his second of the game - Hill intercepted Porter with 2:28 remaining, ensuring a Rams' victory.
Last year it took Newton six games to notch its first and only win of the season, an 11-7 victory over Lithonia.
"It feels great because we felt like we should have won the ball game last week against Alcovy," Collins said. "To get a win this early, especially going into the Eastside game, is absolutely huge."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org