COVINGTON -- In a bid to go unbeaten through its first five games for the first time since 1950, Newton was defeated by East Coweta 20-14 Friday night at Homer Sharp Stadium.
The Region 2-AAAAA battle between two undefeated teams hinged on several big plays that seemed to turn the momentum from the Rams to the visiting Indians.
"It was those same skeletons in the closet," Newton coach Cortez Allen said. "We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and it cost us tonight. We just didn't get it done."
After taking the lead 7-3 on a 7-yard pass from quarterback Tyree Williams to wideout Devon Mann just before the end of the first quarter, Newton appeared poised to take control of the game by backing up East Coweta to a fourth and 20 from its 10-yard line. The big play of that defensive stand was a 10-yard loss on a sack by a blitzing Cornelius Hudson.
On the ensuring punt, Newton gave up an opportunity to perhaps extend its lead.
Signaling for a fair catch at midfield, Newton's Akeem Hunte, who was outstanding rushing the football in the first half, fumbled and East Coweta recovered. Though the Indians failed to drive down for points, the turnover allowed them to gain valuable field position. East Coweta downed a punt on Newton's 2-yard line and then forced the Rams to punt from deep in its end of the field.
Getting the ball back at Newton's 32, East Coweta used precision passing from senior quarterback Zack Hutcheson and some powerful running from sophomore Demarcus Godfrey to turn the game its way.
Before Hutcheson connected on a key 9-yard pass, the Indians benefited from a pass interference penalty against Newton that put the ball on the 22-yard line. Godfrey, a 160-pound speedster with good power, then gashed Newton's defense for 11 yards down to the Rams' 2-yard line. Godfrey bulled over on the next play.
Godfrey's touchdown came with a little over four minutes remaining in the first half and gave East Coweta a 10-7 lead that it never relinquished. The Indians again forced Newton to punt the ball to them and then marched 61 yards for what proved to be a clinching TD just before halftime.
East Coweta's drive for its second touchdown was also aided by a Newton mistake, this time a 15-yard personal foul that gave the Indians the ball on its 39 instead of its 24. Godfrey again ripped off good runs and scored his second touchdown on 3-yard slant over right tackle, this time untouched into the end zone.
The second half proved to be a defensive struggle with East Coweta's only points a field goal by Spencer Smith from 22 yards with only 1:14 left in the third quarter. Newton used strong defensive line play to force the field goal after a Godfrey 46-yard run gave the Indians a first and goal from the Rams' 3-yard line. Godfrey finished the game with 132 yards on 22 carries.
After being frustrated offensively for most of the second half, Newton finally scored its second TD late in the game when Williams hit Shaquille
Lindsey with a 5-yard pass on a fourth and goal with only 2:33 left to play.
The Rams attempted an onside kick but it failed to go 10 yards and East Coweta was able to convert a first down behind the rushing of fullback Angel Santiago to effective run out the clock for the win.
In the first half, Newton looked poised in moving the football offensively and playing strong defense.
The Rams took the opening kickoff and drove down the field behind the running Hunte. Newton drove from its own 35 to East Coweta's 39 before a penalty wiped out a 10-yard gain on a pass from Williams to Devon Mann. Then Williams fumbled when sacked and East Coweta started its first possession from Newton's 45.
Although the Rams' defense stiffened, the Indians put the first points on the board with a 39-yard field goal by Spencer Smith with just less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
Newton looked to Hunte for more offense on its next possession. Starting at the 38 of Newton, Hunte burst for 11 yards on his first carry and then broke free for another 19 on his next run. Hunte finished the first half with 60 yards on 16 carries.
Continuing the Newton drive, Williams went up top for a 10-yard completion to Mann to get a first and goal from the East Coweta 10.
The Rams scored the game's first touchdown on a 7-yard completion from Williams to Mann with 45 seconds to play in the first quarter.
"These kids have already been through a lot this season," Allen said. "And they will fight back and we will fix the little things."
Now 1-1 in regional play and 4-1 for the season, Newton travels to play Stephenson next week.