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Rams to get tested early by Jaguars

COVINGTON - The Rams probably could not play a tougher Region 2-AAAAA opener than the Stephenson Jaguars, who Newton will meet at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Hallford Stadium.

In their last four meetings, the Jaguars (3-0) have out scored Newton (1-2) 171-13 with three of those games being shutouts.

Stephenson seems to be the same scoring machine it has been, putting 98 points on the board while allowing 14 points. Those points came against Ware County in a 34-14 win.

Although the Jaguars seem hard to stop, Newton coach Nick Collins said that not only is it possible, they're also beatable.

"People may think I'm crazy, but we feel very good where we are," Collins said. "I feel real good about where the program is heading. They're a good football team, but we feel that if we do what we're capable of doing we can beat this football team.

"We've reached a point at this stage that we're building confidence. The difference right now, from last year, is the expectations. This game is no different than the last three we've played. We've done our work, we've done our prep. We've just got to win."

A way to beat a strong and fast defense is to keep them guessing. That is why the Rams are going to have to find a way to make their passing game a big part of the equation.

"We haven't thrown necessarily because we haven't had to. We have to be able to throw the football to make sure they don't put eight or nine guys in the box to keep us from running," Collins said. "The ball game is going to be won up front. We feel good about the matchups from a coaching standpoint. What we have to do is convince the kids that the matchups are more favorable for us."

Giving the Rams a possible advantage is the fact that they are coming off a bye week. The added time off allowed Newton to focus on the present and work on getting better.

"I think having a bye week allowed us to get that out of our system and get ready for what we call the real season," Collins said. "Those three games we played previously won't get you in the playoffs. The next seven do.

"We have to focus on us. The one thing we've been able to do is to focus on us and not so much on who we're playing or what the event is. We have to make the kids understand that it's about us. As long as we take care of us, everybody else is just another football team."

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

SideBar: If you go

Who: Newton Rams at Stephenson Jaguars

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Hallford Stadium, Clarkston

Last week: Stephenson beat Ware County 34-14; Newton had a bye

Series: Stephenson leads 4-0

Last meeting: Stephenson beat Newton 46-13