COVINGTON — The Rams are hoping to leave the fans of Bazemore-Hyden Stadium as shocked as they left the Lowndes fans as they travel to Valdosta to take on the Wildcats at 8 p.m. on Friday.
For the Rams (1-1) to get another upset win they are going to have to do what three other teams have not been able to do - stop the run.
“It’s a concern because knowing they run the ball efficiently means that we’re going to have to read our keys,” Newton head coach Terrance Banks said. “A lot of what they do is misdirection plays so our kids have to make sure they read their keys and try not to follow the backfield motion. If they try to follow the backfield motion we’ll struggle.”
The Wildcats (3-0) are averaging more than 290 rushing yards per game with seniors Malcolm Joseph and Nelson Herring getting the majority of the carries. Joseph is their workhorse getting most of the carries while Herring is their speedster breaking runs for big gains.
Against Thomas County Central, Herring had runs of 91 and 80 yards while gaining 223 yards. If Newton’s defense can stop the running game, Banks likes their chances against the unproven arm of backup quarterback Mac Loudermilk.
“Their No. 1 quarterback, who knew how to read the defense and could throw the ball well, went down due to injury right before the season. What they have now is a very smart kid,” Banks said.
“They have some good receivers but the quarterback doesn’t have the extra-live arm. I would like to force him to throw the ball to beat us because it’s not what they have been doing the first three games. It’s not that I don’t think he can’t throw the ball more than 10 yards, it’s just that it’s not what they like to do.”
Against Lowndes, the Rams were able to take advantage of five Vikings fumbles. While Banks would like to get that type of production from his defense every game, he knows that’s a lot to ask for.
In order to take some of the pressure off the defense, Newton’s offense is going to have to move the ball and score more than the 15 points they had against Lowndes.
“We have to do what we do to be successful. Their defense is stout but Lowndes defense was stout. It’s not any different than what was going on at Lowndes,” Banks said. “Our goal is to create more turnovers than we give up in order to win the take away advantage.”
Newton quarterback Romario Johnson is going to have to a good a game as they did against Lowndes. Johnson completed half of his passes going 17-for-34 with including the game winning touchdown. They averaged 6.6 yard per carry running the ball gaining 118 yards on 18 touches.
Despite coming off a bye week, Banks did not let up on the team working them hard for two weeks preparing for another loud and enthusiastic Valdosta crowd.
There is no doubt that Banks would like to win in order to improve their record to 2-1. But he feels that there is something more important at stake.
“There was a lot going on last week but as I told the kids, we’ve gotten pat’s on the back but state-wise the respect level is 50-50. Everybody is saying that if you’re really good we’ll find out,” Banks said. “That’s where we’re at, if we’re really good we’re about to find out.”