COVINGTON -- Newton's offense is going through a minor reconstruction in hopes that an easier scheme will prevent it from turning the ball over so often when it plays Langston Hughes today at Homer Sharp Stadium.
Against Lowndes and Valdosta the last two weeks, turnovers have given its opponents a short field, making it easier for them to score while keeping the defense on the field too long.
"We're trying to slow things down by simplifying the offense. Having two sophomore starters on the offensive line and a sophomore quarterback you expect to have some issues," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "Right now, offensively we're not pulling our weight and not getting the things done from an overall team aspect."
Allen's thinking is by making things easier on the young offensive line, which is still being pieced together due to injuries, it will help the Rams' running game become more consistent. If that happens, then Newton's (3-1) passing game should become more consistent with less pressure on sophomore quarter Kimanhi Pittman.
"Our starting center, Darren Garner, is still going to be out again this week. The offensive line looks much better. We're going to work out some kinks up front," Allen said.
By keeping the pressure from building on Pittman and the passing game, Allen is hoping that Pittman will make more completions. If not, he says to expect some changes in personnel.
"It's either one of two things, he (Pittman) either doesn't hit the receiver or if he's on point the receivers don't catch the ball. This week we look much better in practice -- they got some extra work in," Allen said. "We're putting our offense in a situation where at every position they have to show up and execute. If you don't do it we'll have to move to the next guy."
The running game is going to be key to Newton's game-plan. Against Valdosta last week, James Hardeman showed what the Rams are capable of as he gained 123 yards on 14 carries and Newton's only touchdown. Hopefully, keeping the ball moving in the right direction with Hardeman will be Toyus Avery and Darius Dean.
Strong offensive play is key if the Rams want to get their first win of the season against the 3-1 Panthers. The Rams offense, which scored its first points of the year last week, has had a problem of stopping itself with turnovers. As a result, Newton's defense had been on the field too long while trying to defend a short field.
Allen has seen Langston Hughes' program mature over the last few years and knows that if it get enough chances it can score in the air and on the ground. To keep the Panthers from winning, Newton's defense is going to have to stop a running game which only gained 76 yards on 31 carries against Rockdale last week, but made it possible for quarterback Kenny Moxey to complete 12 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns.
"We've played them over the last couple of years and have watched the team grow and saw their program flourish a little bit. We just have to play our caliber of football defensively and get after them to stop their run game. We're looking for our secondary guys to be tough in the pass game. They have two rules in the secondary, you either pick the ball off or you knock the guy down. That's what we're going to concentrate on," Allen said. "Our front line has to get after the quarterback and not give him too much time to throw. That's the goal this week from the defensive standpoint."