Penalties lead to Newton downfall in 10-0 loss

COVINGTON -- Once again Newton was its own worst enemy as penalties stopped the Rams more than the Langston Hughes defense did in a 10-0 loss on Thursday at Homer Sharp Stadium.

Not including penalties that were declined or offsetting, the Rams were penalized 13 times for 120 yards.

"Some of the (penalties) I don't necessarily agree with, but that's something that's starting to become part of who we are," Newton head coach Cortez Allen said. "I don't know why that is, but we're trying to fix it. We just have to keep trying to get better in those spots."

The Rams (0-4) could not get out of their own way to start their first three possessions. The Rams immediately put themselves in a hole on with an 11-yard loss on their first play of the game. They faced first-and-15 situations on their next two possessions because of penalties. Three of their six first-half possessions resulted in a penalty on the first play from scrimmage.

Newton's offense struggled in the first half as it did not get a first down until its fifth play of the second half with 2:49 left in the third period. The team ended the game with three first downs total.

Both teams had a hard time moving the ball as they combined for 81 yards in the first half. Newton had 10 yards of offense with Langston Hughes (4-1) gaining 71 with 19 coming on a run by Panthers quarterback Kenny Moxey. The Panthers had all the first downs with five for the first two quarters of play. Of those, two came on Newton penalties.

The Rams continued to have a problem moving the ball, gaining just 28 yards rushing on 18 plays. Five of those plays put Newton deeper in the hole as it lost 30 yards. Newton's passing game consisted of five completions for 32 yards on 17 attempts; four were dropped, holding the Rams scoreless in three of their four games.

"We still scored no points, so we have no choice but continue to build," Allen said. "We saw some good things in spurts offensively but we're just not maintaining."

After getting their first first down of the game, the Rams again pushed themselves back with a 15-yard penalty for a chop block and another five yards for a false start, forcing the Rams to punt again.

Langston Hughes took advantage of Newton's penalties, along with a 21-yard pass from Moxey to Trevon Badger, giving Stephan Whitehead the chance to kick a 42-yard field goal five seconds into the fourth quarter.

It looked like Whitehead's field goal was the spark Newton needed, as James Hardeman broke out for a 14-yard run to give Newton a first-and-10 from its own 34-yard line. But once again, penalties moved the team in the wrong direction, stranding the Rams at fourth-and-24 on the 15.

It only took the Panthers four plays to move the ball 35 yards before Keion Davis scored on a four-yard run with 8:48 left in the game to go up 10-0.

"The defense did an outstanding job," Allen said. "I'm hurting for those kids. They ended up giving 10 points, but it was because of bad field position. Some of that we've tried to avoid because defensively our kids have been playing at a very high level. We're trying to avoid giving teams short yards to score. At some point they're going to bend and at some point you have to stop giving them 25-35 yards to score."