BUFORD -- A failed fourth down attempt from the Buford 2-yard line with 48 seconds remaining in the first half is a play the Rams would like to have back.
With a chance to knot the game at 14-all heading into halftime, a Neal Howard pass fell incomplete to Jerrol Hines in what would be the Rams’ last opportunity to keep the game close.
The Wolves answered back with a quick touchdown to open a 14-point lead seconds into the third quarter, a swing a momentum that allowed the hosts to cruise to a 42-14 victory at home, handing Newton its first loss of the 2019 season.
“This is what we needed to see,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant said. “These are the types of ball games that we’re going to be in. In our region, we don’t expect to go out and beat people by 4-5 touchdowns. They have to learn how to be in these games and win them. You don’t know how to do it until you do it. I’m happy about the opportunity for this, but I’m not happy about the way we finished it.”
After failing to convert a third-and-18 on their opening possession of the game, the Rams converted both of their third down attempts on their second drive on runs of nine yards from Josh Hardeman and Quincy Cullins.
Facing a second-and-8 from the Buford 43-yard line, Cullins ripped off the longest play from scrimmage for either team, a 26-yard rush down to the Buford 17. On the very next play from scrimmage, Cullins broke free again, this time ending with the junior diving into the end zone for a 17-yard score.
Leading the Wolves 7-0 with 3:32 remaining in the first, the Wolves needed only 1:47 to knot the game at 7-all thanks to a long kickoff return. On third-and-10 from the Newton 36-yard line, Buford’s Justice Johnson walked into the end zone after breaking free down the left sideline and catching a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Jarvis Evans.
Two plays into Newton’s ensuing possession, Howard was intercepted by Buford’s Jake Pope, who undercut a pass intended for Hines. Taking over at the Newton 29-yard line, the Wolves grabbed their first lead of the game four plays later on Evans’ second touchdown pass of the game to running back Gabe Ervin.
Maintaining its 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter, Newton took over possession at its own 13-yard line and promptly marched into Buford territory on four completions from Howard to Hines. Staying with the hot hand, Howard found Hines once more for a gain of 21 yards to set up the Rams with a first-and-goal from the Buford 8-yard line.
Cullins nearly tied the game on a hardfought run, but was tackled just short of the end zone for a gain of seven, setting up third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After a loss of one from Cullins, the Rams elected to go for it on fourth down with 48 seconds remaining in the half, but Howard’s pass intended for Hines fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs to the Wolves.
“That was huge,” Grant said. “We we were still in a good spot, but being able to go into the half tied 14-14 instead of down by seven I think that would have definitely switched some things.”
Failing to tie the game at 14-all just before the half proved costly for the Rams after allowing a quick 51-yard touchdown from Buford’s Elijah Turner on the first play from scrimmage to begin the third quarter, extending the Wolves’ lead to 21-7.
“We didn’t cover the kickoff too well to start the half and they popped one up the middle. I don’t know if a score right there before the half would have changed that part, but it definitely would have been a big momentum boost.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Rams midway through the third quarter after starting their third drive of the second half from their own 1-yard line thanks to a Hayden Olsen 55-yard punt.
Facing third-and-8 from their own 3-yard line, Howard was intercepted at the 2-yard line by Buford linebacker Mason McCranie, who pounded his way into the end zone to give the Wolves a commanding 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
“We knew that kid was going to punt the ball well,” Grant said. “We put our heels on the 10 and didn’t back up. He hit one that hit at about the five-yard line and died. That was a tough spot to try and navigate out of.”
Buford added to its three-touchdown lead with Turner’s second score of the night, this time on an 8-yard run with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter.
Looking to get back into the game, Newton ended Buford’s 35-0 scoring run with a 75-yard catch-and-run from Howard to Diondre Glover, who out-ran the defense for the score. The touchdown cut Buford’s lead to 35-14 with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wolves added one last touchdown in the fourth quarter, an 11-yard pass from Evans to Julien Lewis.
Hines finished the game with a game-high 12 catches for 112 yards while Glover finished with four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Howard threw for 230 yards on 19 of 35 passing to pair with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Buford 42, Newton 14
Newton 7 0 7 0 14
Buford 7 7 14 7 42
Newton: Quincy Cullins 17 run (Abdiel Velesquez kick), 3:32
Buford: Justice Johnson 36 pass from Jarvis Evans (Hayden Olsen Kick), 1:37
Buford: Gabe Ervin 6 pass frrom Evans (Kick), 11:10
Buford: Elijah Turner 51 run (Olsen kick)
Buford: Mason McCranie 2 INT (Olsen kick), 6:31
Buford: Turner 8 run (Olsen kick), 2:55
Newton: Diondre Glover 75 pass from Neal Howard (Velasquez kick), 2:05
Buford: Julien Lewis 11 pass from Ervin (Olsen kick), 8:15