Covington COVINGTON — Questionable calls on both sides of the ball helped determine the outcome as Eastside relinquished the lead in the final 30 seconds of the game, giving Newton the 10-3 win in the county-rivalry game on Friday.
Trailing 3-0 as a result of a 35-yard Colton Smith field goal with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter, the Rams (2-0) closed the
gap to 3-2. A Tyrique Brown blocked punt sent the ball rolling out the back of the end zone for a safety with 1:58 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff from Eastside’s 20-yard line, the Eagles (1-1) kick only traveled 30 yards giving Newton’s Deshawn McKenzie the chance to return the ball.
“I just wanted to be patient then I saw the hole and I just hit it,” McKenzie said.
His patience and speed worked out well for the Rams as they got the ball on Eastside’s 35-yard line following a 15-yard return.
Everything seemed to be going Newton’s way when things started going wrong. In the seven-play drive, which was capped by an 8-yard Javonte Williams run with 27 seconds left, the Rams appeared to have lost the ball three times. The first time was when Newton quarterback Gmatreian Brown fumbled the ball. However, he was able to get it back even gaining a yard in the process.
The other two times Newton seemed to have caught a break. The first when an Eastside fumble recovery was overturned when the player was called down. The second was an interception by Jamal Hardge with 55 seconds left which was called back because of a pass interference call.
“They got the breaks. The interception, I don’t know if it was pass interference or not. The fumble, the takeaway, the ball was coming out and he wasn’t down. The ball was coming out on the way down. But it is what it is,” Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said.
“Our season is not over. We have eight more games and these are the ones that count. But it hurts. I told (players) as much as we invest, if it don’t hurt something is not right with it. But our kids are resilient, they know this ain’t the end of the world. We’ve talked about it all week. We have bigger and better things ahead.”
Even though those calls helped determine the outcome, the Eagles had chances to score where a few calls would not have determine the outcome.
In the closing minutes of the first half, the Eagles had a chance to go up 10-0 but a missed 38-yard field goal and a dropped pass in the end zone kept both teams scoreless in the first half.
“We had our chance. It’s like I told the kids, don’t blame the officials, they didn’t have anything to do with it,” Hurst said. “If we catch the touchdown pass it’s the ball game. We kick the other field goal we should’ve made, then it’s 10-0 or at worst 10-7. Hats off to them they played hard and hats off to our kids.”
Eastside wasn’t the only team that gave up scoring opportunities. In the third quarter with the game still scoreless, Newton had a chance to score a touchdown but an interception was dropped. In Newton’s opening drive of the third quarter, after getting the ball on Eastside’s 20-yard line following a fumble recovery, the Rams missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.
“We dropped a lot of interceptions and I’m not pleased at all with that,” Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. “When we take advantage of opportunities the game is over. We know what kind of team we are, I’m proud to say we’re a defensive team and there’s nothing wrong with that. So when we get opportunities to stop them and make big plays on defense we have to make it.”
Even after Newton grabbed the lead, the Eagles were not done fighting. Getting the ball on Newton’s 20-yard line, the Eagles moved the ball down field with time to spare. However, it all seemed to be for nothing when Daronte Carter intercepted the ball. But just as Newton got the chance to get the ball back following an apparent turnover, the Eagles also got the chance. After the ball was given back to Eastside and a penalty was added, putting the ball on the Rams 30 with no time left, Eastside took one more chance with a pass into the end zone. But the pass was deflected ending the game with a Newton win.
“In the last 20 seconds a lot of teams would’ve laid down and quit. But we went right back on the field and had a chance to throw it in the end zone and win the ball game,” Hurst said. “We were inches away from breaking something. It just never did materialize.”