COVINGTON — Newton holds their destiny for an 11th game in their hand. All they have to do is beat Luella on the road on Friday.
The Lions (5-3 overall, 3-2 Region 2-AAAAAA) have a half-game advantage as they play in their final game of the regular season while the Rams (3-5, 2-2) still have Morrow left after Luella.
Beside’s wins over Morrow and Druid Hills, Luella also had a 28-14 win over Rockdale while barely losing to Alcovy in the 34-31 contest.
Newton put themselves in this situation as a result of their 28-21 overtime loss to Rockdale.
“I did a poor job of making sure the kids understood the importance of being 100 percent prepared for 48 minutes against Rockdale. They understand now because they’ve seen Luella beat Rockdale and they’ve seen Luella play Alcovy close,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “They understand that they better play for 48 minutes against Luella or it could happen to them.
“Before we even talk about a home playoff game we first have to talk about getting in the playoffs. The first thing is we have to beat Luella. The key is to understand how important that game is.”
A key to Luella’s season has been their defense. The Lions defense has the ability to pressure their opposing offense as they have 26 sacks and 11 interceptions while forcing the quarterback to throw 37 passes before they were ready. They’ve also caused 13 fumbles.
Against Rockdale, three of Luella’s four touchdowns came on defense and special teams.
The Rams have to have clean up their play if they hope to have a chance to beat the Lions. In the past few games, Newton has stopped themselves with penalties while giving their opponents good field position with poor special teams play. When they do move the ball, they have to find a way to finish drives.
Newton’s offense have left too many points on the field as a result of failing to find the endzone forcing them to go for field goals. When they do score, they have to make sure they make the extra-point kicks. Against Lovejoy, the Rams missed two extra-point attempts while missing with the ball inside the redzone.
“We have got to a better job of paying attention to details,” Banks said. “What we have to work on is finishing. We’re doing different things to get us ready for Luella as well as the playoffs.”
Defensively, the Rams have to make sure they do not focus to much on covering the run as Luella spreads the field playing a wing-T offesne.
Even though the Lions are primarily a running team, sophomore quarterback Donald Hammond can make defense’s play for trying to put extra players in the box. Despite a low pass completion rate, 38 percent, when Hammond connects with his receiever they do so for big yardage averaging 19-yards per catch. Even though the Rams cannnot affortd to give up the big play, they seem to do so having given up passes of 96 and 72 while giving up a punt return of 81 yards.
“It’s those explosive plays that have been hurting us that we have to cut down on,” Banks said. “They understand that this is pretty much the season in a balance if they want to guarantee going to the playoffs they have to beat Luella.”