Prep Football: Newnan struggles to find weakness in Sandy Creek lineup
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Even Superman had Kryptonite.
Newnan head football coach Mike McDonald and his staff have poured over Sandy Creek game film the past week without finding much of a soft spot another tough opponent to open the 2012 season.
“Normally you can find something. Maybe a right guard or something small you can hone in on. But there’s not a weakness with them,” McDonald said of a Patriots program that has lost three games since 2007. “They don’t have one. They’re just a really good football team all over. That’s what makes it tough.”
Of course, the last time Sandy Creek lost a game in the regular season it came against an opponent from Coweta County. But that was 30 games ago during the opening week of the 2009 schedule in an overtime loss at East Coweta.
Sandy Creek (1-0) didn’t waste any time in its return to Class AAAA last Friday night, pummeling a Banneker team that has high hopes in Region 4B-AAAAA this year. The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points in the first half en route to a 52-6 victory behind four touchdown passes by quarterback Cole Garvin.
The 6-0, 190-pound junior has grown even more comfortable in his second year as a starter after helping lead the Patriots to last year’s state quarterfinals and an eventual 35-21 loss to Gainesville.
Garvin will have plenty of support with a receiving corps that is arguably better than last year’s group led by JaQuay Williams, who signed with Auburn but will attend prep school as a non-qualifier.
Demarre Kitt (6-1, 190) and Alpharetta transfer Kyle Wilson (6-3, 190) lead a deep group that will challenge Newnan’s talented secondary led by senior safeties Tray Matthews and Darrell Morrow. Cornerback Rodney Tennie had an interception last week for the Cougars, who still may find some matchup problems with taller Patriot targets on Friday.
“They can certainly spread it around and they try to stretch you sideline to sideline,” McDonald said. “But the thing they want is to run it right at you first and see if you can stop that. There’s not just one thing they do well.”
Sandy Creek’s Multiple-I formation boasts a pair of sophomore running backs in Eric Swinney (5-10, 180) and Delvin Weems (5-7, 180), the latter of which stepped in when last year’s starter, Mike Hilton, was injured during the 2011 season.
Defensively, Newnan can’t afford to give up the big plays it has early on the past two weeks in the first half. Marietta scored on 21 and 26-yard touchdowns while LaGrange cashed from 18, 38 and 51 yards before halftime last Friday before settling in.
Against Marietta, Newnan found a way back trailing by just more than a touchdown at halftime. Last week, the Cougars were down 14 while most fans were still getting comfortable in the new surroundings at the Drake.
Fall behind too quick, too early on Friday, though, and there might not be much of a chance of the ‘rally Cats’ coming alive a third time. A pair of key fourth-down stops with LaGrange needing just a yard helped keep momentum in Newnan’s favor in the final two quarters.
“I thought we played on defense, especially in the second half,” McDonald of last week’s 24-21 victory over the Grangers. “But we never got into a rhythm on offense.”
Two of Newnan’s three touchdowns came on screen passes to Matthews along the sidelines, with the senior’s other touchdown catch coming in the corner of the end zone on a ball headed in the direction of teammate Traon Moss.
Sandy Creek’s defense is led by senior cornerback Shaq Wiggins, who like Matthews, has committed to Georgia.
The bulk of sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant’s 263 yards came on the screen passes, including a 48-yard gain to tailback J.K. Britt. Bailey took several hard hits last week against an athletic LaGrange defense including a pair of sacks for a combined 20-yard loss.
Between the tackles, however, only hulking senior Quinton Dix managed to make a bit of an impact, rushing 14 times for 68 yards. Through two games, however, Newnan is averaging just 3.8 yards a carry.
“When we saw those first three games starting with Marietta and LaGrange we knew this game was going to be a booger,” McDonald said. “Sometimes when you have a start like we have, you get a false sense of how good you are. We can’t afford that. We’ve got to be ready to play Friday.”