Newton Rams defeat Luella 34-21

COVINGTON -- The Rams showed their dominance early and never let up as they secured a home game in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs with their 34-21 win over Luella on Thursday at Homer Sharp Stadium.

Newton (4-5 overall, 4-1 Region 2-AAAAAA) did not waste any time in claiming home field advantage as Kemani Pittman, who was 6-for-11 for 135 yards, connected with Dezmon Billingslea for a 74-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Following Billingslea's fumble recovery of a Luella ball, Pittman ran the ball in from the 6-yard line to make it 14-0 with 9:51 left in the opening period.

While Newton had command of the game, they gave the Lions (2-8, 2-4) an opening. Following a fumble as a result of trying to do too much, Luella took the ball down the field 65 yards on nine plays ending with a 1-yard pass from Jared Hendricks to Jaylon Harris with 6:24 remaining in the first half.

While Newton's offense was stagnant, the defense kept the team rolling with a pair of Nick White interceptions, one returned 24 yards for a touchdown, in the second quarter. White finished the game with three Luella interceptions.

That spark was what the Rams needed as Pittman hit Taylor Hawkins on a receiver screen for a 10-yard touchdown with less than a minute to play in the first half.

The second half started like the first half ended, with Newton in charge. After getting the onside kick to start the second half, James Hardeman carried the ball six times, gaining 35 yards and a Rams touchdown giving them a 34-7 lead. Hardeman carried the ball 21 times for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Even though the Lions were down by 27 points, they refused to give up. With 9:53 left in the game, Hendricks passed the ball to Manny Lowery to close the gap. Hendricks passed the ball three times for 78 yards, connecting with Aaron Davis for a 16-yard touchdown with less than 90 seconds left for the final score.

Newton will finish its regular season play on the road at Tara Stadium against Morrow.