Prep Football: Newnan puts on quite a show in scrimmage win
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Had Newnan's football scrimmage Friday against Griffin been a touted as a summer blockbuster film, fans would have been just as satisfied watching the previews. And they now had the theater seats at Drake Stadium to prove it.
As it was, the Cougars got enough accomplished over the course of a 21-14 preseason exhibition victory to be able to feel a bit more comfortable with themselves when they sit down and watch the game film heading into next Friday's 2012 season opener at Marietta.
"I thought we did some good things right away," McDonald said. "We had some crazy things happen in the second quarter to us, but what I was really pleased with was the way we came out in the third quarter and finished the game strong."
For an offense with only four players with starting experience back — none of which including sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant — the Cougar staff couldn't have asked for a better opening 12 minutes.
Bryant, a 6-2, 166-pound first-year starter without a varsity attempt heading into the fall, completed 5 of 6 passes in the first quarter including a heads-up shovel pass to senior Darrell Morrow from 11-yards out that gave Newnan a quick 6-0 lead less than four minutes into the season against a rebounding Griffin team that finished 9-3 and had its season ended by eventual Class AAAA champion Tucker.
The Cougars' new quarterback looked cool and calm during nearly all of his varsity debut, rarely panicking in key moments. He finished with less than a handful of attempts he would have requested a second chance. By the time junior varsity units hit the field in the fourth quarter, he had helped lead the varsity to a 15-14 victory by connecting on 10 of 15 attempts for 154 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception.
"This is crazy," said Bryant with a smile from ear-to-ear. "It was just fun to be out there with those guys. They did a great job out there making plays."
(To view or purchase photos from this scrimmage, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports / Football for the Photo Gallery.)
Outside of a poor long snap on an extra-point, the first 20 minutes of Friday's game provided as much of an example of what could go right this season. Behind an offensive line where right guard Jamal Carlisle and David Raschen saw considerable time up front in 2011, Newnan moved the ball on seven runs by sophomore J.K. Britt and three completions from Bailey while picking up four first downs along the way.
Britt, who contributed heavily as a ninth grader last year, capped off Newnan's scoring on a 4-yard third-quarter touchdown run, finishing with 37 yards on 12 carries.
Bryant's only incompletion on the opening series was a well-executed throw in the corner that senior Tray Matthews was unable to keep his hands on long enough. Two plays later, though, the southpaw was flushed to his left but was able to fling the ball just ahead to Morrow on a heads-up play, with the senior receiver carrying it the rest of the way.
"I got chased out of the pocket and I was just able to get it to him. Darrell made a great play," Bryant said.
Morrow later made an acrobatic first-down grab in the third quarter just moments after Bryant hooked up with Matthews on a 42-yard connection, as both full-time defenders in 2011 seemed anxious to become big-play threats on offense as well.
Defensively, things went just as well early. A unit with five starters - led by safeties Matthews and Morrow in the secondary - kept Griffin off its own half of the field until the early moments of the second quarter, when the Bears picked up their initial first down of the game. In all, the unit picked off two passes, had a Bears fumble recovered by defensive lineman Mark Harris, and forced a safety when 260-pound defensive lineman Anferney Turner grabbed hold of Griffin quarterback Jordan Colbert, forcing him to step on the end line.
The pair of big men were part of a Newnan defensive front that lost all three starters to graduation.
Meanwhile, both of Newnan's safeties added interceptions. Morrow's came on a deep ball to close the first half before Matthews — fresh off his five-star ranking by Rivals.com as its No. 8-ranked safety in the country — ended Griffin's opening drive of the second half by picking off a pass by Griffin starting quarterback Jordan Colbert, who brought the Bears back from an 8-0 deficit with a pair of touchdown drives of his own.
Griffin tied the game off two broken plays. On fourth and goal, Colbert fell to his knees while throwing a desperation toss that was pulled in by Bears receiver Trey Willis. The ensuing two-point conversion was tipped from the goal line into the arms of an unintended Griffin receiver in the back corner of the end zone.
Even on special teams, the Cougars staff had to be pleased with the first effort. Outside of the rolling snap on Newnan's first extra-point attempt, units performed well led by first-year punter Tyler Mulvenna. The soccer standout's first two career kicks both were downed inside the Griffin 5-yard line, the first of which setting up the safety to close the first quarter.
Matthews — ranked among the top-10 high school safeties in the nation — added an interception to close Griffin's opening drive of the third quarter.
Sophomore Kelvin Khayyam added a fourth-quarter touchdown for Newnan's junior varsity, scrambling 33 yards on a busted play with just over nine minutes to play in the scrimmage.