Prep Football Notes: Newnan 'hit' and 'miss' so far in 2-0 start to new year
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
They’ll take the 2-0 start, but after a pair of single-digit victories the Newnan Cougars have been a ‘hit’ or “miss” football team to open the 2012 season.
On defense, they’ve made as many big plays as they’ve given up. Scoring hasn’t been an issue either, yet running between the tackles and keeping sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant vertical were both issues during Friday’s 24-21 comeback win over LaGrange where the Cougars scored the final 17 points of the game.
But Newnan equally struggled to bottle up LaGrange on its returns while also allowing the Grangers to recover an onside kick to open the game.
The inconsistencies have provided a roller-coaster swing of emotions for both Cougar fans and coaches, with Friday’s victory still in doubt until the final 32 seconds when safety Darrell Morrow collided with LaGrange receiver Dee Smith for the last of four consecutive incomplete passes during the Grangers final series.
Smith scored twice in the opening eight minutes of the game, once on a 15-yard fade route in the corner of the end zone and another on a 38-yard play untouched in the middle of the field that gave LaGrange a quick 14-0 lead.
“Coach [Donnie] Branch and his staff, they’ve got a fine football team,” said Newnan head coach Mike McDonald. “Of course we only had two quarters of a scrimmage game on them coming in. They did some things that we hadn’t seen, but we adjusted to it.
The two scores, along with an onside pooch kick to begin the game and a trick pass to running back Benny Gray down the sidelines when the junior looked like he was walking off the field,
“It just threw us off,” said Newnan senior Tray Matthews, who finished with three touchdown catches and 154-yards receiving.
Newnan’s defense also gave up a 51-yard touchdown run to Mon Denson in the first half, the largest six LaGrange plays of 11 yards or more by the Grangers in the first half.
Xavier Phillips came up with a pair of sacks on defense, however, and Newnan upped the pressure while shutting out the Grangers in the final two quarters. Two key stops in 4th-and-1 situations helped keep momentum in the Cougars favor. Tennie also added a leaping interception on the night.
Newnan’s offense also had highs and lows. Quarterback Bailey Bryant threw for over 260-yards, but his biggest gains came on screen passes for huge chunks. Matthews had two of them for 65 and 58 yards. Running back J.K. Britt also broke a 48-yarder in the first half.
Cougar senior Quinton Dix finished with 60 hard-fought yards while at times able to drag a defender or two one or two extra steps. The offensive line took an early hit when Ricky Kirkland came to the sidelines four minutes into the game and didn’t return.
“I was a little disappointed. We didn’t block as well. They stunt and move and every time we got something going, they’d push us back. But we knew they were very athletic on defense. It was just a hard-fought game. To be 2-0, we’ll take it.”
• Northgate falls in opener
Something rare happened Friday night to the Northgate Vikings.
The team lost a season opener for just the second time in nine years as it fell to Heritage-Conyers 9-7.
Friday night’s season opener for both teams was a battle of stout defenses as the Vikings forced four turnovers in the first half. The Vikings returned the favor in the second half as they coughed up the football four times in the final two quarters.
If there was some good news despite the loss, it was the return of defensive lineman Sean Spencer.
The Northgate senior, who has committed to play at Vanderbilt, missed part of two the last two seasons with injuries. Spencer returned to the football field in big way Friday night with a couple of sacks. He also recovered a Heritage fumble.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Vikings has they take on Griffin Friday night at home.
It will be the Vikings’ first meeting ever with the Bears. The following week, Northgate takes on North Clayton, the team it knocked out in the playoffs.
• Godfrey shines in opener
East Coweta running back Demarcus Godfrey has been the Indians leading rusher the past two seasons. With Friday night’s performance, it looks like he might just close out his senior year the same way,
Godrey scored on touchdown runs of 36, 35 and 9 yards to lift the Indians a huge 35-7 victory over Henry County.
Friday night’s win gave the Indians four in a row in season openers.
The Indians also got a huge lift from new starting quarterback Bryce Gemmel who made his debut as a starter highlighted by a 14-yard scamper.
East Coweta gets back into action next Friday against Archer.