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Rams get ready for playoffs against Morrow

COVINGTON -- Just because Newton is headed for the Class AAAAAA playoffs and Morrow ends its season on Friday, that doesn't mean that the Mustangs are going to roll over for the Rams when the two meet at Tara Stadium.

"We've been in a situation where our playoff hopes have been gone but we still go out for our seniors, trying to give them a good taste and hopefully send them off with a victory," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "From what we've seen of Morrow on film, they run a good program and the program is trying to be rebuilt. They're trying to go in a positive direction. I just hope they don't come out and tank the game because that's how people get hurt."

While a win or loss by the Rams (4-5 overall, 4-1 Region 2-AAAAAA) will not change their seeding, Newton is playing this game against Marrow (1-8, 0-5) to get ready for the playoffs. A major concern for the Rams is finding a replacement for Aaron Pierce, who dislocated his elbow against Luella last week.

"Replacing a kid like Aaron is difficult because he does so much for us like returning kicks, punting and receiving," Allen said. "We've worked hard this week trying to replace this one individual. We have to make sure we fine-tune those areas and make sure we get kids to step up and help out any way to get ready.

"We're going to go out and compete just like we would in any game. We want to make sure that we stay mentally focused. This is our first playoff game. That's how we've gone through the week. We've been gearing our kids to go to the playoffs."

Trying to replace Pierce are Newton kicker Harrison Stamps at punting and Dezmon Billingslea at receiving and returning kicks. Also helping create new targets for quarterback Kemani Pittman are freshman DeAndre Huff and junior Taylor Hawkins.

When the Rams have the ball, they have to find that balance of keeping their starters in peak performance while making sure they're not overused, risking injury or fatigue.

While Morrow has not shown a high level of consistency, Newton cannot be overly relaxed as the Mustangs have athletes able to make things happens.

"If we don't take care of business, a couple of those guys can win the game on their own," Allen said. "You can't take them lightly.

"What I've been telling them is that right now we're driving a fine automobile; we have to fine-tune it and get ready for the race. We want to go out and compete well, but at the same time, we want to give our kids who are dealing with some nagging injuries a break to keep them as healthy as possible and get them as close to 100 percent as possible."