COVINGTON — Newton head football coach Camiel Grant hasn’t had too much to complain about through the Rams’ first two games of 2019.
Having outscored in-county rivals Alcovy and Eastside 87-7, including a 45-0 shutout of the Tigers in Week 1, the Rams’ 2-0 start to the season has Grant and company excited about what their future holds.
“Being 2-0 is a lot better than being 1-1 or 0-2,” Grant said. “We’re happy with that, of course. Overall, we’re in a good spot. I think anytime you can win a ball game and still have some areas that you can point out to the kids, that becomes a plus. It gives you an opportunity to keep them grounded.”
Week 3 of the football season will feature the first of two BYE weeks for the Rams, who won’t be back in action until Sept. 13 at home against Arabia Mountain. With a chance to give his players some time off, both to rest and recuperate, Grant didn’t hesitate to work in some downtime for his team this week.
“The good thing was the BYE week came at the same time as a 3-day weekend,” Grant said. “It was easy to give them Monday off. We have a couple of guys banged up from last Friday and it’s been a long offseason, so the first thing we talked about was how can we manipulate some rest here. We have a JV game on Thursday, so that gave us another way to create a rest day.”
By the time Saturday rolls around, however, Grant and the Rams will have worked in a few things they will need in order to game plan against Arabia Mountain next week.
“We’re going three days this week,” Grant said. “We’re going to spend a couple of days on us getting some things cleaned up and doing a little bit more special teams work. Toward the end of the week, we’ll start to take a quick look on some things that we want to install before we get ready for Arabia Mountain.”
Through the Rams’ first two games this season, Grant has received stellar play on both sides of the ball. On defense, the Rams have allowed just one touchdown. Last week against the Eagles, the Rams forced several turnovers including an interception and two fumbles recoveries from Nyland Green.
Tyon Bigby enters the BYE week with seven tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Both Malachi Arnett and Eugene Tavares forced a fumble against the Eagles while Javari Smith recorded two sacks and forced a fumble against the Tigers.
“Coach Spencer Fortson and those guys on the defensive staff do a great job of having the kids prepared every week,” Grant said of his defensive coordinator. “We’re very aggressive right now. We’re getting a lot of hats to the ball, we’re creating turnovers and to get deep into where we want to be in our region and wanting to compete, we have to be able to play good defense.”
As good as the Rams’ defense has been through two games, Grant pointed to his team’s run defense as an area that needs to improve moving forward.
“We still have some things to clean up,” Grant said. “We have to be a little bit better against the run in certain situations, but right now, we’re happy with it and I’m sure coach Fortston is going to get those things cleaned up that we need to fix. It’s always good to play good defense.”
On offense, first-year offensive coordinator Zach Underwood has received praise from Grant on leading the Rams’ high-powered offense to back-to-back games of 40 or more points scored.
The Rams have scored upwards of 10 offensive touchdowns to the tune of 960 total yards of offense. Senior quarterback Neal Howard has thrown three TD passes to senior wideout Robert Lewis, who has eight catches for 155 yards on the season.
Lewis is joined by Jerrol Hines and Quincy Cullins as the Rams’ skill players with three total TDs on the season. Hines leads the offense with 312 yards, 167 receiving and 145 rushing.
“I’m very pleased with the job that Zach is doing,” Grant said. “His biggest challenge is just, every week, trying to spread the ball around. We have so many guys in the backfield and everyone knows about the receivers that we have.”
So far, he’s been doing good. He’s mixing formations and we’re playing with different personnel groupings. Even beyond those main name guys, we’re playing 2-3 other kids. So far, he’s coming up with a different wrinkle.”
With different players on offense stepping up each week, Grant said it’s not a surprise, whatsoever.
“I think you have to tip your hat to coach Underwood for finding a way to get all of those kids involved and creating opportunities for them to have explosive plays,” Grant said. “That’s a challenge. Anyone who has ever called a ball game, it’s hard enough when you only have 1-2 guys trying to spread the ball around. But when you have 5-6 guys who can all make explosive plays, trying to spread the ball around and keep them happy is a difficult task. He’s doing a good job with it.”
The Rams will be back to a normal practice schedule starting Monday.