COVINGTON — Newton is hoping to continue to improve on their running game gaining 239 yards last week behind three reliable ball carriers ball carriers as they travel to Meadowcreek on Friday.
Newton (1-0) had a pair of 100-yard rushers against Berkmar with junior Romario Johnson gaining 134 yards on 10 carries while sophomore Kurt Taylor rushed for another 101 on six touches. Last year’s workhorse, junior Artice Hobbs, had five carries averaging 4.4 yards per touch.
“It’s always different that first year we only had one kid that we thought could carry the load,” second-year Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “But this year we have three kids that can legitimately run the ball. That’s going to be a big part of what we do. Since we have three kids that can run the ball we’re going to try to get them all involved. I think that helps us in the long run because it keeps us healthy and confident in getting to game 11.”
However, the Mustangs (0-0) may not be so accommodating despite their vulnerable defense they showed last year which gave up 464 points with three teams scoring over 55 points including Collins Hill who blanked Meadowcreek 68-0 win.
Coming back with more experience and a bit more quickness are defensive ends Deandre Smith and Oliver Niyungeko, who are around 6-foot-3 at 220 pounds each.
However, if they can get past their strong defensive line they should be able to gain some big yardage against a young and inexperienced linebacker and secondary personnel.
The Rams were very well balanced last week throwing the ball 27 times, gaining 335 and five touchdowns, yards while running it 24 times. If they hope to continue to build their passing threat, they will have to count on their front line as well as their running back to protect Johnson (16-for-23, 281 yards) when he’s in the pocket.
Despite having seven plays of more than 30 yards, Banks knows that they cannot count on the big play to keep their offense moving.
“You can’t go into a game expecting to get big plays. We’ll just go out there and try to do what we can. I’m a firm believer in that you don’t have to throw it 30 yards to get 30 yards. We just need to get he ball in the hands of people that can do stuff for you,” Banks said. “Big plays are part of the game, we definitely need them. That’s what makes your team explosive and it gives the kids confidence too. We’re confident every time we get the ball on offense we can drive it down field all the way to the end zone.”
The Mustangs were held scoreless four times last year scoring 69 points including a season-high 21 points in their only win against Habersham Central. However, the Rams defense will have to make sure the Mustangs to keep Meadowcreek’s right side of the line from opening any holes or offering too much protection to quarterback Kalu Onumah, who stands at 6-foot-5. That could be a difficult task with right tackle Antonio Jarrett (6-6, 355) and right guard Hal Drayton (6-3, 285) ready to lead the way and protect their quarterback.
Newton was led by linebacker A.J. Palomino in total tackles last week with nine while sophomore linebacker Jaquan Henderson getting eight including a game-high two for a loss.
Making the task more difficult is that Meadowcreek did not play last week so the Rams coaching staff did not have an opportunity to come up with a game plan to stop them or to find out where they’re vulnerable on defense.
“We just have to prepare ourselves for anything based on what happened last year and trying to get a view of what they could do this year. We’re going to have to go base and cover everything. That’s all we can do,” Banks said. “We don’t know what they’re going to do so we have to prepare for us.”