Staff photo: Lee Depkin Newton's James Hardeman sidesteps a tackle r as he rushed for rushed for more than 150 yards against Rockdale.
COVINGTON -- Newton's defensive front seven proved to be too much for Rockdale's offensive line to handle as it caused problems in the Bulldogs backfield in their 27-6 win in a big Region 2-AAAAAA game on Friday at Homer Sharp Stadium.
"Everything starts with the offensive line. We didn't get it done up front and we didn't give our quarterback enough time to throw thew ball," Rockdale head coach Venson Elder said. "We have to get in the weight room and we have to get stronger. That's the bottom line."
Rockdale quarterback Zuri Murrifield started the game throwing the ball and getting big completions, passing for 143 yards going 7-for-13 in the first quarter including a 26-yard touchdown to Aubrey Brown, but after that the Rams defense came down hard on the Bulldogs.
Newton (3-4, 3-0) had two interceptions, including a 69-yard return by Nick White in the second quarter, while sacking Murrifield five times. Kingsley Ejike had three sacks while the other two were by Treyvon Richardson.
"That was an area, our front seven, we felt we could definitely be dominant and it happened. Those were their (Ejike and Richardson) goals for the game. They knew they had to come and play," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "They knew they had to take their game to a different level and they did."
The front seven also kept Rockdale (2-6, 2-2) from getting a running game going. Of the Bulldogs' 19 running plays, eight were for negative yards. Rockdale finished the night with minus 20 yards on the ground. After the first quarter where Rockdale's passing game gained 143 yards, the rest of the game only netted 96 yards. The Bulldogs' Mike Rozier caught three passes for 106 yards in the first quarter as he led the team in receiving with four catches for 131 yards.
"He was throwing the ball up in the air and their guys went and got it. I guess our heads were up in the clouds somewhere. We saw that (film) but I didn't think it was going to be a problem," Allen said. "We just told the kids to get it fixed. We had some mental breakdowns and needed to get focused. There wasn't a lot of adjustments to be made."
The Rams got their running game on track with James Hardeman leading the way with 33 touches for 158 yards including a 31-yard touchdown run.
"We watched "Little Giants" and what our kids took from that is they have to have faith and believe in one another. We had a kid in our program that left us this summer. He transferred to another school and a lot of kids got worried. I told them to patient because we're doing the right thing and if they work hard we're going to be blessed. We were blessed with James Hardeman," Allen said.
Newton ran the ball 48 times for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Scoring the other rushing touchdown was Joe Rockett who punched it in from six yards out in the third quarter.
While the defense scored on White's interception in the third quarter, Newton's special teams set the tone as Toyous Avery took the ball into the end zone on a 12-yard run following a blocked punt after the defense stopped Rockdale in their first series.
"We needed those sparks. We need our defense to help spark our offense," Allen said. "We had one defensive score and one special team score, that motives those guys."
Rockdale has a bye next week while the Rams travel to Twelve Oaks Stadium to play the only other undefeated team in the region, Lovejoy, with the region championship possibly on the line. The Wildcats defeated Luella 60-0 on Friday.
"We feel like we're in the driver's seat. Next week we got to Lovejoy and battle for the region championship," Allen said. "That's where we felt we wanted to be at this point in the season, that's where we are."