COVINGTON - County championship on the line or not, the Eastside-Newton game is always a battle. This year should be no exception as the Rams try to stop Eastside from winning for the fourth straight year at 7:30 p.m. today at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"The thing about this game is that you can throw everything out the window when it comes to records and all of that. This is a different type game," Newton coach Nick Collins said. "You want to go for a whole year saying you beat Eastside or you beat Newton. Nothing else really matters outside of that when it comes to playing this game."
Eagles coach Rick Hurst concurs with Collins as far as it being a big game. Even though the county championship is not on the line, there is something important on the line.
"Bragging rights are out there," Hurst said. "It's big for our players, it's big for our staff and it's big for the community. We're looking at it as it's the next game on our schedule. We want to win to give us some confidence as we head into the region schedule."
Collins is hoping to do something none of his teams at Newton have been able to do - win two games in a row and beat Eastside.
Even though the Rams started slowly against McIntosh last week, they were able to come back for the win. Esteban Guitterez made four extra-point attempts, and Trey Sims and Cadarius Terrell caught touchdowns.
"I thought the kids did a really, really good job of competing and understanding that when you have an opportunity to put a team away, you have to do it," Collins said. "For the first time since we've been here, we took that approach and we finished what we started. We have not been able to win back-to-back games and that's our goal right now. If the carryover is there, and we think it can be, then we feel really good. If it's not, it may not look good for us."
For Newton to come out on top, there are three things they have to do, according to Collins: not make dumb mistakes, control the line of scrimmage and get some big plays.
"We can't get false starts, we can't have holds, we can't shoot ourselves in the foot because of penalties," he said. "We have to complete a few long passes, we have to get some long runs and things like that. If we can do those three things, we feel good about our chances."
Eastside has to get past the 3-0 loss to Alcovy. It would probably be easier if the Tigers had shut them down. Instead, the Eagles outgained Alcovy in rushing and passing yards, but they were unable to overcome the three interceptions and three fumbles, of which they lost one.
"It's been a tough and disappointing week, especially after you feel you should have won the (Alcovy) game," Hurst said. "We didn't make the plays when we had to, but we're putting Alcovy behind us and it's time to move on."
One way the Eagles are trying to put the loss behind them is by focusing on the offensive line to get their running game back on track.
"When you look at film, you have four guys doing their job and a mental lapse on one," Hurst said. "When you have that mental lapse, the hole doesn't appear like it normally does. We've worked on it and you're going to see a different group.
"Our kids have turned the focus to Newton. They don't want to lose to both of (the county rivals). But our seniors understand that if we play our best and don't win, we'll just come back next week and get ready for our region. That's what we're shooting for. We're shooting for state playoffs. County championship was one of our goals. We're not going to get it, but we still have a region championship out there we can win."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: If You Go
· Who: Eastside Eagles (1-1) at Newton Rams (1-1)
· Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m. today
· Last week: Eastside lost to Alcovy 3-0; Newton defeated McIntosh 42-14
· Series: Eastside leads 4-3
· Last year: Eastside won 29-27