COVINGTON — The Rams have reason to feel that they could still have a homecoming win against Region 2-AAAAAA front runner and AP Class AAAAAA No. 4 ranked Lovejoy at 7:30 p.m. today at Homer Sharp Stadium.
“Lovejoy is beatable,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said with confidence. “They can be beaten because other teams have shown you a blueprint along the way. When it gets down to it though you have to take advantage of those opportunities if you’re going to beat them.”
The Wildcats (7-1, 4-0) lost to Colquitt County 17-13 and came close to losing to Alpharetta and East Coweta. Alpharetta lost 24-23 when they failed to convert and two-point conversion. Lovejoy’s Preston Williams caught a long pass over two East Coweta defenders with less than two minutes left to get the 39-35 win.
What these teams have been able to do is spread out the defense. Lovejoy’s defense, who is allowing an average of less than 14 points a game, likes to stuff the box with defenders not allowing teams to run the ball with any success.
“If you put eight guys in the box, they’re putting nine guys in the box. You have to be able to spread them out and get your playmakers the ball,” Banks said.
The Wildcats will apply the pressure sending enough rushers to have an unblocked player forcing the quarterback to quickly look for the open receiver. Because of the amount of players they send, the Wildcats play man coverage.
To avoid getting sacked, Newton (3-4, 2-1) sophomore quarterback Romario Johnson will have to quickly find his receivers and make accurate throws. Against Rockdale, Johnson completed more than half his passes and ran for over 100 yards.
“They’re going to bring the heat. That’s what they believe in. They’re not going to sit back and allow you to find holes,” Banks said. “You have to spread them out and give your athletes a chance to make plays. Basically, one-on-one has to be a win for us. It comes down to are our kids better trained than their kids. That’s what it takes to bring down Lovejoy.”
The return and a week of play under the belts of linebackers A.J. Palamino and Dez Billingslea give the Rams the leadership they have been lacking for the past few weeks. They are going to have to solidify the defense making sure everyone is where they belong and the tackles are made. For the Rams to keep Lovejoy from maintaining their 36 points a game average, the defense is going to have to make sure the secure the ball carrier and not keep everything inside the defensive ends.
“Their running backs are faster than any running backs we’ve played all year. If they get in open space we’ll have a hard time. And we’ll have to slow down Preston Williams. He’s probably the best receiver we’ve played against in the past two years. He’s everything everyone says about him.Team speed might be equal but Lovejoy has some players that are more explosive than mine,” Banks said.
“The game is going to go one of two ways. We’re not blowout Lovejoy, it’s either going to be a tight game or they could get us in a run. It depends where our mindset is. The good news is that it is homecoming and that helps us get our mental game ready to play Lovejoy. If we tackle and we take advantage of what Lovejoy puts out there it could be a very exciting game.”
Lovejoy ended up being Newton’s homecoming game becasue their original opponent, Druid Hills, was during fall break. Their second choice, Morrow, the game is being played on a Saturday.
“We thought it was in the best interest of the kids to have homecoming against somebody else,” Banks said. “It was settled that it had to be Lovejoy.”