Prep Football: Newnan cruises comfortably to win on homecoming
By DOUG GORMAN
The Newnan Cougars found the perfect way to celebrate homecoming Friday night at Drake Stadium against Hardaway from Columbus.
Newnan scored touchdowns on four of its first five series and took a commanding 35-0 lead at the half and turned it into a 38-7 victory.
Throw in some stellar defense that only allowed Hardaway past midfield twice, and Newnan was in control of the contest all night limiting the Hawks to just seven first downs. With the loss, Hardaway dropped to 2-3.
Sophomore Bailey Bryant finished the game 6 of 10 passing for 168 yards with four touchdowns to go with an interception.
It was also one of the Cougars’ best nights running the football. Sophomore J.K. Britt finished with 76 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
It was the first time this year Newnan hasn’t needed a second-half rally to secure the win. In its victories over Marietta, LaGrange and Troup, the Cougars went into the third quarter trailing on the scoreboard.
“We started fast tonight,” said Newnan coach Mike McDonald. “I thought we had improved over the off week, and I am just glad we were able to come out and show it.”
(To view photos from this game, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports / Football for the Photo Gallery.)
After getting stopped on four downs on their first series and turning the ball back over to Hardaway, the Cougars built a 21-0 lead in a span of about four minutes as Bryant hooked up on two long passes to Matthews. Newnan added a long touchdown run by Britt to also help build the three-touchdown lead.
The first score came when senior Tray Matthews caught a pass on 3rd-and-10 from Bryant and ran 47 yards for the first of his two touchdown receptions. The University of Georgia commitment now has five TD catches through five games.
Less than a minute later after Newnan forced Hardaway to punt, the Bryant to Matthews combination struck again when the senior receiver caught a short pass over the middle and out ran the Hawks’ defense for a 53-yard score.
Newnan added one more touchdown in the first half when Britt scored on a 26-yard run.
The Cougar running back was just getting started. On Newnan’s next offensive drive, Britt caught a 12-yard pass in the end zone for a 28-0 lead.
“We knew we just had to come in and work hard in practice,” Britt said. “It’s homecoming, so we just wanted to come out and play well.”
Bryant admits he is getting more and more comfortable with each game.
“It helps to have a five-star recruit,” Bailey said referring to Matthews. “Then you got this guy (Britt), who can run a little bit too. They make it easy for me.”
Newnan turned the ball over twice the late in the first half, but Hardaway wasn’t able to capitalize.
After the first turnover, Willie Boston’s sack pushed the Hawks out of field-goal range, killing their best scoring chance in the first half as the ball went back over to Newnan on downs just before halftime.
The Cougars got the ball back with less than minute to play in the half and Bryant capped the drive with his 48-yard scoring strike to Traon Moss for the 35-0 lead at the break.
Hardaway, which lost to Lowndes 57-0 last week, has been outscored 95-7 in their last two games.
Even with a running clock in the second half, Newnan picked up right where it left off getting a 20-yard field goal from Conner Cox for a 38-0 margin for its only score of the second half. It was the first attempt of Cox’s varsity career after Tyler Mulvenna — perfect on all five PATs in the first half — let his teammate get a chance to add some points.
Hardaway quarterback Blake Berry and Thomas Tyrie accounted for most of the Hawks’ offense, but the visitors were unable to get too much going until its last drive of the game.
Marching from inside the Newnan 10, Berry and Tyrie hooked up on passes of 15 and 19 yards to help move the football. Warner Shakur helped prevent Hardaway’s second shutout in a row with 4-yard touchdown with just under two minutes to go.
Matthews knows things are heading in the right direction as the Cougars get ready to play their Region 3-AAAAAA opener at Tri-Cities in two weeks after a week off.
“We are just going to keep playing our game,” Matthews said. “We are sitting at 4-1, and that puts us in a pretty good position. We just have to keep working hard and playing our tempo.”
Because Newnan started the regular season a week early then most teams when they traveled to Marrietta, it will get two open dates this year. After having one last week, the Cougars are also off next Friday.
McDonald said there is still plenty of football to think about.
“I didn’t like having to play early like we did, but that was the only time Marietta would play us, but looking back at it, it’s been a good thing,” he said. “We got better after that first week off, and we will get sometime now before the region starts, so it has kind of all worked out.”
SCORING SUMMARY – Newnan 38, Hardaway 7
Hardaway 0 0 0 7 — 7
Newnan 21 14 3 0 — 38
N — Bailey Bryant 48 pass to Tray Matthews (Tyler Mulvenna kick), 4:48
N — Bailey Bryant 53 pass to Matthews (Mulvenna kick), 3:09
N — J.K. Britt 26 run (Mulvenna kick), :05
N — Bryant 12 pass to Britt (Mulvaenna kick), 7:06
N — Bryant 46 pass to Traeon Moss, (Mulvenna kick), :12
N — Conner Cox 20 field goal, 5:39
H — Warner Shakur 4 run (David Scott kick), 2:10