COVINGTON -- Newton's football team has just missed heading to the Class AAAAA playoffs the last two seasons, losing one region game too many and finishing in fifth place. However, Rams head football coach Cortez Allen feels that this year could be their year to break that barrier.
"We're excited about the new region," Allen said. "We feel like we have a shot at being very competitive and making the playoffs. That's our goal for the year, to go in and win every game we can. I'm not going to say it's going to be easier, but it won't be as challenging without those powerhouses. We'll still have tough competition with Lovejoy and Luella, who has become a major rival with us. It's going to be easier without having to deal with the juggernauts like M.L. King and Stephenson."
This year's football team is hoping that last year's growing pains are behind and it will be able to capitalize on them. Rather than a bunch of first-year sophomores in key positions, the Rams will have game-hardened veteran junior players in those positions as they try to become the first champion of the new Region 2-AAAAAA.
"Some of the juniors that are going to be back have been starting for a couple of years," Allen said. "We have some veteran kids at key positions."
Every team from pee-wee league to the professional level has a weakness. The weakness that the Rams are going to have to protect is their lack of experience in the secondary. Even though they will have several juniors protecting the pass, they are mostly juniors with little playing experience. For Newton to have a chance of keeping the other team off the scoreboard, its defensive line and linebackers are going to have to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, not allowing the plays time to develop.
That is going to fall on the shoulders of their big three senior defensive front in Kingsley Ejike, Treyvon Richardson and Tarez Dorsey.
"Those guys, along with our two outside backers, Dez Billingslea (junior) and A.J. Palomino (sophomore), we'll be looking for those guys to get after the quarterback," Allen said.
That youthful experience is also to play a major role on Newton's offensive line. While the middle of the line is relatively secure with two juniors and a senior, the ends could be vulnerable. That vulnerability could be dangerous to starting sophomore quarterback Kemani Pitman.
The plan to keep Pitman healthy is to have a lot of quick passes so he doesn't hold on to the ball too long while running a balanced offense with seniors Darius Dean and Joe Rockett in the backfield. But that does not mean that he can't or won't go long from time to time.
"He has an extremely strong arm," Allen said. "We have some big-play receivers with Taylor Hawkins and Aaron Pierce. They can go get the ball. They're going to have to do a good job of running some precise routes so he doesn't have to hold on to the ball too long. He has the making of a great quarterback."
Also giving Allen and the rest of the team something to look forward to is that the Alcovy-Newton game will now have meaning besides bragging rights as they are both in the same region. Also bringing excitement to the field this season is the renewal of a 41-game rivalry against Rockdale County. The first game between the oldest schools in their county was played on Sept. 14, 1957, a game which Newton lost 20-0. The Rams won their last meeting, Oct. 17, 2003, 14-7.
"For our community, it's going to be big. A lot of people have crossed those (county) lines," Allen said. "A lot of the kids have grown up together and played middle school ball with all the NewRock championships that we have throughout our athletic department."