COVINGTON — The Rams may have caught against McEachern with the injury of quarterback Tymashian Clemons but that will not make the Indians any easier to beat when the two clash in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs tonight at 7:30 at Homer Sharp Stadium.
“They had a three-headed monster, now it’s down to a two-headed monster,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “We’ll see if that as an affect on the game from their game plan and perspective.”
Clemons, a senior, had already rushed for more than a 1,000 yards before being injured in their loss 31-17 to Hillgrove last week. Now all Newton (5-5) has to worry about is stopping junior running back Taj Griffin.
Griffin is listed as the 24th best junior player and the fourth best player in the state according to ESPN. He already has offers from several SEC, ACC schools such as Florida State, Clemson and Georgia as well as Ohio State.
“I suspect he’ll touch the ball 25-30 times. He’s what makes their team go,” Banks said. ” He’s the fastest guy we’ve played all year. If he breaks past our line there’s no way we have any chance to stop him.”
The replacement quarter is going to be Bailey Hockman, the head coach’s son. Even though he may know that game, being a freshman starting in his first game Banks is sure his nerves could be a factor with hopefully hand offs under pressure and in passing situations.
“He’s smart but he’s a freshman. He hasn’t started in a game this year and here he is, the first game he’ll start will be this week in the playoffs,” Banks said. “If we can get him in third and long, I think it’ll be successful for us. If they get a chance to get in third and three or less all night, we’ll be in trouble.”
While the Newton defense has to do its part in trying to stop Griffin, the offense is going to have to find consistency in moving the ball against a stout defensive front line with a couple of 300-pounders up front.
“Their strength is their front four. We have got to make them move up and down the field and go fast all night. It comes down to us giving (Rams quarterback Romario Johnson) a pocket and being able to run the ball. If we give him a pocket then we’ll be successful,” Banks said.
To wear down the McEachern (8-2) defensive front forcing the to sub in and out all game, the Rams need to find a way to stretch out the running game hitting the corners.
“If we can tire them out that might kill their pass rush,” Banks said. “If we can play in (open) space and get the ball out there fast then we’ll be fine on offense. That’s our hope anyway.”