For the second year in a row, Newton football will exit its first BYE week of the season with a date against Arabia Mountain, a Class AAAAA program that has yet to win a game in 2019.
In 2018, Newton’s 41-21 victory over Arabia Mountain handed the Rams a 2-1 record on the season in their first-ever meeting. In 2019, a win Friday would give the Rams their first 3-0 start to a season since 2017.
The Rams will be paced by their high-flying offensive attack that has already scored 87 points in just two games against in-county rivals Alcovy and Eastside. Defensively, the Rams have allowed just one touchdown.
“Coach Spencer Fortson and those guys on the defensive staff do a great job of having the kids prepared every week,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant said of his defensive coordinator last week. “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.”
On offense, the Rams have been paced by senior quarterback Neal Howard. Howard, along with his experienced wide receiver and running back corps, have managed 960 total yards of offense through two games.
Three of Howard’s touchdown passes have gone to senior Robert Lewis, who has caught eight passes for 155 yards while senior Jerrol Hines has been on the receiving end of two receiving touchdowns. Hines leads the team in total yards of offense with 312, 167 receiving and 145 rushing to pair with his three total TDs.
The Rams’ rushing attack has been led by Quincy Cullins, who leads the group with 147 yards rushing on 29 carries. Senior Josh Hardeman has managed 133 yards rushing on 15 carries while Keaton Hambright has also carried the ball and scored for the Rams.
“I’m very pleased with the job that Zach Underwood is doing,” Grant said of his offensive coordinator last week. “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.”
After winning six games in 2018 and making the state playoffs as a No. 2 seed, Arabia Mountain has not fared well thus far in 2019. The Rams have been outscored 93-17, including losses to Carver and M.L. King, two teams the Rams defeated one season ago.
The Rams’ 0-3 record marks their first winless start in three games since 2015.
Newton will travel to Arabia Mountain for their first game outside of Sharp Stadium this season. The Rams (0-5) did not win a game outside of Sharp Stadium last season, but are expected to be heavy favorites on Friday.
“Being 2-0 is a lot better than being 1-1 or 0-2,” Grant said last week. “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.”