COVINGTON - Newton coach Nick Collins is not a believer in moral victories, but he found solace in how far his program has come to battle perennial powerhouse Stephenson into overtime before losing a heartbreaker 13-7 Saturday night at Homer Sharp Stadium.
The Rams had fought back from a 7-0 deficit to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter only to lose on a 7-yard pass completion in the corner of the end zone in the first overtime period.
"This loss is just too tough," Collins said. "But our defense played well all night to keep us in the game and we had our chances in the fourth quarter."
On a damp evening before a large crowd, the defensive battle between these two talented teams kept the energy level high both down on the field and in the stands.
Stephenson, winners of Region 2-AAAAA six of the past seven years, undefeated and ranked fifth in the state, scored first in the early moments of the second quarter when Raymond Sanders took the ball in from the 3-yard line. After the successful extra point kick, the visiting Jaguars took a lead that was unchanged until the fourth quarter.
The Rams' defense rose to the occasion when they jarred the football loose from Stephenson and Jamal Hunte recovered the fumble on the visitors' 14 yard line with less than nine minutes to play in regulation time.
Newton needed only two running plays to convert the turnover to six points when Torrian Hunte slashed off right tackle to score from 13 yards out. Esteban Guitterez kicked the point after to tie the game.
Stephenson could not move the ball on its next possession and the momentum was clearly with the Rams.
Newton moved into Stephenson territory through the running of Akeem Hunt. The offense sputtered at Stephenson 27-yard line and the ball went over to the visitors after an unsuccessful pass by Rams quarterback Tyree Williams on fourth down.
The Rams got the ball back one more time in the fourth quarter but they were deep in their own territory, so the offense was cautious on a wet field and punted the ball back to Stephenson after three running plays.
Newton's defense again stopped Stephenson and the game went into overtime.
The Rams got the first possession of the overtime and could only advance to the 10 from the 15-yard line before calling on Guitterez, who missed just wide left on a field goal attempt from 27 yards out.
The ball then went over to Stephenson and the Jaguars gained 8 yards on their first two running plays to the Rams' 7-yard line. On a third-and-two play, Stephenson quarterback Jordan Tarver faked a handoff and then rolled left and found Ronnie Shields for the decisive points.
Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell was complimentary of Newton after the game.
"This one was a little too exciting for me," the veteran coach sighed. "Newton has a good ballclub and they were even quicker than we thought. They could have beaten us tonight but we made a big play at the end."
The loss drops Newton to 3-2 for the season and 0-1 in region play.