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Rams overcome mistakes to secure home playoff berth

COVINGTON — Newton moved the ball well in their 49-30 win over Morrow despite themselves on Saturday at Homer Sharp Stadium.

The Rams (5-5 overall, 4-2 Region 2-AAAAAA) fumbled the ball four times, losing it three times, while being intercepted once. They were also penalized eight times for 85 yards. Morrow (1-9, 0-6) did not have a clean game either putting the ball on the ground six times losing it twice. They too threw an interception and were penalized eight times with five going for 15 yards.

“We’ve got some stuff we need to clean up against a great McEachern team,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “We can’t turn the ball over, we can’t have penalties and we can’t have mistakes.”

The Rams will host McEachern in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Homer Sharp Stadium.

Newton’s first turnover came on the snap of a 38-yard field goal attempt. But the Rams special team was able pressure the Morrow punter getting the ball on the Mustangs 16-yard line. Romario Johnson, who was 20-for-33 for 212 yards, found DeAndre Huff for a touchdown on the first play.

After going up 15-0, the Rams took advantage of a Morrow fumble Rams 38-yard line. Newton drove the ball down the field before scoring on a nine-yard pass from Johnson to Taylor Hawkins on the first play of the second period.

The next several series resulted in turnovers from both teams. Following a Johnson interception by Xavier Essex, Essex fumbled the ball giving the ball back to the Rams.

Newton gave the ball to Morrow on a fumble but quickly turned their back luck into a scoring opportunity when Corey Wyatt returned a Courtney Heard interception 61-yards for a touchdown.

The Rams were on their way to put the ball into the endzone when the ball was fumbled and actually went into the endzone giving the Mustangs the ball on the 20-yard line. But after an intentional grounding penalty, Dez Billingslea was able to tackle Heard in the endzone turning a turnover into a scoring opportunity.

While the defense had five sacks and seven tackles for a loss, they could have a few more. Heard was able to turn a would-be sack into a 31-yard run even though he was surrounded by three Newton defenders.

The defense also fell victim to a halfback pass which resulted in a 37-yard touchdown pass to an unguarded Tyler Moore.

“We have to do a better job of wrapping up. We could have had more sacks,” Banks said. “We could have had everything they wanted if we could take care of the little stuff.”

The missed tackles also came on special teams. Moore was able to break away from several tackles and weaved his way through the kickoff team running the ball 92 yards giving the offense the ball on the Newton 3-yard line.

Besides taking advantage of turnovers and mistakes, the Rams also moved the ball on their own gaining almost 400 yards. Johnson netted 131 yards on 12 carries with four runs of 20 or more yards.

Hawkins and Davonta Jones each had six catches. Hawkins had 61 yards for he efforts with Jones getting another 45.

“We’re going to take what the defense gives us and they didn’t want us to get outside so we just ran the ball inside,” Banks said. “We run a triple option and (Saturday) he was the best option.”