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Newton in must-win situation

IF YOU GO

• Who: Newton Rams (3-3, 0-3) at M.L. King Lions (6-0, 30)

• When: 7:30 p.m. today

• Where: Hallford Stadium, Clarkston

• Last week: Newton lost to Stephenson 34-6, M.L. King beat Luella 49-42

• Series: M.L. King leads 5-0

• Last meeting: M.L. King won 34-24 (Oct. 16, 2010)

COVINGTON -- Newton's playoff hopes are all but diminished unless it can find a way to beat GACA Class AAAAA No. 3-ranked M.L. King on the road at Hallford Stadium at 7:30 p.m. today.

For Newton (3-3 overall, 0-3 in Region 2-AAAAA) to have a chance to make it to the playoffs it must win its next four games, including a win over the Lions (6-0, 3-0).

The region is divided into two categories, the winless and the undefeated.

East Coweta, Stephenson, Newnan -- all of which have wins over Newton -- and M.L. King are 3-0 in region play while Luella. Langston Hughes, Westlake and Newton are still seeking their first region win.

The key to stopping M.L. King from scoring the 34 points it has been averaging is to stop its big receiving threat Blake Tibbs.

In four games, Tibbs has 20 catches for 283 yards with six touchdowns. Tibbs can also produce against good teams such as Valdosta. In the Lions' 16-3 win over the 6-1 Wildcats, Tibbs had eight receptions for 150 yards.

Last season, the Rams were able to shut down M.L. King's top receiver only to have Tibbs step up to the challenge and provide the Lions enough offense to beat Newton 34-24.

Instead of putting one person on Tibbs, Newton head coach Cortez Allen is counting on making it a team effort. By providing this defensive strategy Allen is hoping to keep M.L. King's other top receivers, Cornell Boyd and Demarcus Polite, from doing the same as Tibbs did.

The defensive line, led by Desmon Billingslea and Kingsley Ejike, must also put pressure on quarterback Jonquel Dawson. If Dawson is given the time to set his feet and find a receiver he can be very dangerous to the secondary. In five previous games, Dawson has had three 200-plus passing games while throwing for 1,064 yards. He has 11 touchdowns while only throwing two interceptions.

Offensively, Newton quarterback Gmatreian Brown is going to have to find his receivers in short patterns and hope that they can break a few tackles to gain large yardage. The Lions have a history this season of giving up the underneath patterns while protecting against the deep threat.

Even though Rams running back Javonte Williams has been steady through six games, averaging just under 10 yards a carry with 319 yards on 33 touches, his stature makes it difficult to keep that pace for a long time. Unfortunately, no one else has stepped up to take the pressure off Williams.

For the Rams to get the upset and keep their playoff dreams alive they are going to have to find help for Williams.