COVINGTON - A playoff berth for Newton's football team could be riding on Friday's game against Douglass. Just like last season.
The fact that Douglass (1-6 overall, 1-3 in Region 2-AAAAA) just won its first game of the season gives Newton (4-3, 2-2) coach Nick Collins some concerns.
"They're a good football team, but they've had some problems. They're just like us. They look at their schedule and look at us and they say, 'That's a win,' just like we do with them. They got their first win last week. Until last week they'd only scored one touchdown. They scored 26 points and got a win; they're happy and think they have an outside shot at making the playoffs," he said. "They have something to play for but none of it means anything unless they beat us first. That's got to be a concern for us because our guys have got to understand that they're not going to lie down for us just because they've struggled."
Douglass beat Redan last week 26-20. Prior to their win and the 26 points, the Astros had scored eight points all season with no touchdowns.
Before the Rams do something they haven't done since 2003 - make it to postseason play - they have to find a way to realize the importance of their situation.
"It's amazing. From the players to the folks that are supposed to be supporting our program, they don't have a clue what's going on here. They have no idea what the playoff deal is about. They think it's just one more game. That's just the way they're looking at it," Collins said. "We'd like a little more focus, a little more urgency so that they will know what's at stake. It's obvious that they don't know what's at stake. All you have to do is talk to them or talk to the people that come to our booster meeting.
"It's because they've never been there. It's obvious when you talk about future plans and what needs to happen to get us in the playoffs and what happens in the playoffs. They're concerned with things that have nothing to do with football and it's because they've never been there before."
Collins needs to find a way to put that sense of urgency in his players to keep them from falling apart like they did in this game last season. The Rams failed to score on their last drive, knocking them out of the playoffs.
"We're in the same situation this year as we were last year. We can't afford to have a slip-up here like we did last year," Collins said.
For Newton to win, it has to find a way to make the running game a bigger part of the offense. A big part of making the running game more explosive is going to fall on DJ Hill.
"We have to get DJ Hill established," Collins said. "He's going to start for us at tailback and we've got to get him going. For us to stay in the playoff hunt we have to get better at running the football. Right now, we're not getting what we need out of our running game. Because we're not getting that, people are taking things away from our passing game."
On defense, the Rams need to continue doing what they've been doing by putting pressure on the Douglass quarterback and ball handlers as well as getting turnovers and scoring when the opportunity is there.
In the first six games, Newton's defense has allowed 92 points, 13 points per game, compared to last year when the Rams gave up 22 points per game for a total of 135 points.
For Newton to obtain its first win over the Astros after losing five straight times, the Rams need to become more focused and take a look at their situation.
"We need to not make mistakes. Our focus has got to make better. We feel like what we're doing is good, it's solid. We do the same thing every week, it doesn't change," Collins said. "We should be good at it. Our focus ought to be better and it hasn't been. We have to do a better job of focusing and paying attention to the small details."
SideBar: NEWTON AT DOUGLASS
· Who: Newton Rams (4-3, 2-2) at Douglass Astros (1-6, 1-3)
· When: 5:30 p.m. Friday
· Where: Lakewood Stadium, 70 Claire Drive, Atlanta
· Last week: Newton shut out Greenbrier; Douglass beat Redan 26-20
· Last season: Douglass won 18-13
· Series: Douglass leads 5-0