IF YOU GO
Who: Newton Rams (0-0) at Eastside Eagles (0-0)
When: tonight at 7:30
Where: Homer Sharp Stadium
Series: Newton leads 6-4 including winning the last three straight
Last meeting: Newton won 10-3
COVINGTON -- Nerves could play a big part for Newton sophomore quarterback Kemani Pitman and Eastside junior quarterback Damario Terrell as both are starting in their first big game of their career.
If someone has a slight advantage it could be Terrell since he started two games last year while this is Pitman's first varsity start.
"Anytime you have a new quarterback start it's always pressure but this one is even more pressure. What we have to do is force him (Pitman) into making some bad decisions. Of course, Damario is in the same boat," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "Both of them will have some opportunities to make some plays and both will end up making some mistakes. It's the guy that makes the fewest mistakes that their team will probably win."
One thing both teams will try to do to take some pressure of their quarterback is to establish a running game. Of course, with experienced defensive line and linebackers on both sides that could be easier said than done.
"Anytime in high school football you can run the ball you have a 75 percent chance of winning. We're going to try to establish (run) first and as always, we'll take what they give us," said Hurst. "We'll have to throw the football to keep them off balance."
Helping Eastside establish their ever-important running game is the return of senior Alex Smith. Coming off a fantastic sophomore year, Smith broke his hand in his first carry against Newton last year abd was out for the season.
"He's a special player and there's no doubt about it that we missed him last year," Hurst said. "He's healthy and excited. The big thing for us is to keep his emotions in check. He gives you that home run threat."
However, if the defense is successful in applying the pressure they want then the passing game is going to be huge. At that point it could be anyone's game as both secondary's are relatively young. Both secondary's are going to have to trust their front eight and not play the run until they're sure that the running back has the ball and is going to run with it.
"We're very confident in our secondary. Our starting corner from last year is back, (Davis Comer), our starting free safety (Daronte Carter) is back, our new addition to the secondary (Toyous Avery) is going to be a big time player for us. He's very athletic and has great speed with a good nose for the ball. We're really excited to get him in this game and see him perform," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "Then we a junior starting at corner for us for the first time, Chris Franklin. Chris played some last year so he understands the rivalry."
Last year's match up came down to a special team's play and without the return of Newton punter/kicker Zach Sullivan it could come down to special team plays again as the Eagles have both their punter and kicker returning.
While being Pitman's primary receiver, Aaron Pierce will also be their punter while putting football uniforms on a couple of soccer players for the first time hoping that they can perform and keep their emotions in check with the pressure and the large crowd yelling and screaming.
"We hope that they can get things done. That's going to be kind of a thrill seeker for us," Allen said. "That's been a tough area for us to fill. They're good kids with strong legs, but it's their first time on the football field in front of 3,000 people, that can make you shaky."