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Newton facing tough challenges ahead

COVINGTON -- Even though Newton will only be playing in its second Region 2-AAAAA game when it faces East Coweta at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the Rams already have their backs against the wall as they look at the next two games on their schedule.

Newton (3-1, 0-1) is in a must-win situation against East Coweta (4-0, 1-0) as it has Stephenson and M.L. King on the horizon.

According to the PrepCountry.com/GACA Coaches poll, Stephenson is the Class AAAAA No. 4 ranked team with M.L. King coming in at No. 5. To make Newton's plight even more difficult, the Indians are ranked at No. 10.

"For this season to be successful we have to have this one," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "We have to go out and do the things we've been doing well and some of the things we haven't. We have to put an emphasis on those things."

The Rams started their season last year going 4-0 before losing the next four, which started with a 20-14 loss to East Coweta. Newton missed the playoffs by one game last season with a region record of 3-4, East Coweta was the No. 4 seed finishing the region at 4-3.

To avoid going 0-2 in region play, Newton's offense must find a way to be more consistent on offense. While they try to be balanced, their running game is falling behind only rushing for 60 yards against Newnan last week. Even though they gained more yardage with their passing game, 154, they did so with poor results. The Rams had too many dropped passes to open receiver and too many over throws with being pressured. As a result, Newton finished the game with a completion rate of 42 percent going 13-for-31. They also hurt themselves with three interceptions, one being returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

"We're going to have to be more consistent with our running game, I wasn't too pleased with our running game (against Newnan). We can't do anything effective without running the football," Allen said. "We have to take care of our opportunities. We have to minimize mistakes and be sound defensively and manage the game on offense. We have to expose some of their weaknesses."

The other reason for Newton to do a better job running and throwing the ball is that they have to get past a good East Coweta defense. In their first four games, the Indians are giving up an average of seven points a game including a shutout against Troup.

While playing aggressive is a good thing, Newton's defense is going to have to tone it down against East Coweta's balanced offense. Last week, the Rams defense had four sacks with Kingsley Ejike getting three of them. However, if they attack the quarterback in that same fashion they will find that the ball is past them.

While the Indians are balanced, they also run a lot of counter and play action which would hurt a full-fledge attack on the quarterback.

"It's going to be tough because you're not going to be able to focus on the run or the pass, you have to have your head in the game and be prepared for it all," Allen said. "Our guys have to be extremely disciplined and read their keys to be more effective against the running game without losing the ability to get to the quarterback. They (Ejike and Dezmon Billingslea) get a little pass-rush happy. That's great when they're passing the ball but it hurts us when they run the ball.

"I feel like we match up very well with them. I'm not going into the game thinking like it's a can't win. This is a game we have to win after dropping the one against Newnan."