Photo by Michael Buckelew
COVINGTON -- One thing that Newton does not have is a lack of players at summer practice. The Rams have been averaging between 60 and 70 participants a day for about a month.
"The participation has been great and the kids have been great so the kids have been out here consistently," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "We're excited to see growth of some kids and start to see the reps work out. So far everything is going great. We haven't had any injuries or had any kids go down on us in 20-plus days of 90-plus weather. That's an attribute to our coaches making sure we have water and the kids are doing what they're suppose to do and everybody staying hydrated."
Even though the Rams have plenty of depth at running back and a solid receiver, quarterback is not solidified but is becoming clear.
Leading Newton's backfield is Javonte Williams with Darius Dean and Dale Moore filling in the other spots.
"We have a receiver, Deshawn McKenzie, we're excited about. Deshawn has played a little varsity the last two years," Allen said. "He had a starting role last year even though he didn't get a lot of balls thrown at him. But just the experience of being out there Friday night does hold a lot. He was a super kid on the JV level and has had a super summer so far.
Stepping up to take over as the Rams' offensive leader is Gmatreae Brown. While Brown does not have a problem throwing the ball deep down the field, he does need to work on midrange passes and making the right reads.
"We're kind of on a roller coaster, and I told him I don't like roller coasters," Allen said. "I like to climb a mountain until we get to the top and just walk across the sky. We don't want to drop down into the valley, we want to stay on an even plane once we get to that level."
The one aspect of Brown that is moving along at a good pace is his role as a leader.
"He's done an outstanding job of being where he's suppose to be and doing what he's suppose to be doing. From that standpoint we're excited," Allen said. "A part of being a quarterback is to show great leadership. He does a good job of commanding his guys, and the guys respect him."
While the offense is coming along at a dependable rate, the defense, especially the defensive line, is coming along better than anticipated. Two reasons for that are defensive line Kingsley Ejike and Damon Gresham, who Allen describes as the strongest two kids they have coming back.
"He's probably our big standout this year," Allen said of Gresham. "He's the guy that every coach is coming in looking for. He's a 6-4 defensive lineman at 240 pounds. Those guys can bench press the building."
The other group of Newton's team that Allen is confident and excited about is the offensive line. Returning from last season are Chase Dial, Darren Garner and rising sophomore Daniel Durden, who as a freshman did a solid job at right guard.
"We have some real good pieces that are returning," Allen said. "We also have 6-6, 330 pounder Torrey Parks returning. He's my most improved guy."