Prep Football: Refreshed Cougars ready to open region at Tri-Cities
By DOUG GORMAN
After a week off for its second open date of the season, the Newnan Cougars take their 4-1 record on the road Friday night when they open the Region 3-AAAAAA portion of the season on the road against Tri-Cities.
For Newnan, the next five weeks will be consumed with football as it plays the rest of its schedule against region opponents in hopes of earning one of the four region playoff spots.
Newnan should come into the game well rested. The Cougars hit the midway point of the season with a 4-1 record but they have only played twice since the middle of September. Newnan’s schedule has two open dates this season due to its early opener against Marietta.
This time around, the Cougars used the bye week to get healthy and reenergized.
“We gave everybody one day off, but we have spent the rest of the time just working on us and getting ready for Tri-Cities,” McDonald said.
In their last outing, the Cougars knocked off Hardaway with a 38-7 homecoming victory. It was the Cougars’ most dominating performance of this year. In its first three victories, Newnan needed second half-comebacks in order to win, but not against Hardaway.
Friday night’s season opener might just be a shootout. Newnan is averaging nearly 25.6 points per game, while giving up 21.8. Tri-Cities is averaging 20.5 points per game and allowing 25 points per game.
At the annual preseason media/coaches meeting in August, Tri-Cities was predicted to win the Region 3-AAAAAA title, but the Bulldogs have struggled recently, losing their last two games to teams that share the same name.
Tri-Cities dropped a 32-20 victory over Carver (Columbus), then lost a 51-14 decision to Carver (Montgomery).
Newnan has done plenty of damage against opponents through the air. Sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant is 48 of 72 passing for 773 yards and nine touchdowns. He has also thrown just two interceptions.
McDonald likes the way Bryant has grown up.
“He has done a really good job finding receivers and our offensive line has done a good job protecting him.”’
Bryant also has had the luxury of getting the ball to some talented wide receivers who bring plenty of experience to the field.
Senior Tray Matthews, who plays on both sides of the ball for the Cougars, has turned into the team’s leading wide receiver with 17 catches and five touchdowns. Traon Moss has grabbed 13 catches including four for touchdowns.
After a slow start early in the season, McDonald says his team’s running game is starting to show improvement.
Through the first five games, Newnan is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Quinton Dix and J.K. Britt are handling the bulk of the rushing load for the Cougars.
Dix has rushed for 248 yards on 54 carries and scored three times. Britt has rushed for 154 yards on 33 carries and a touchdown.
“We have worked on our running game and we feel like we are showing improvement,” McDonald said.
Defensively, Tonaris Portress leads the team with 50 tackles. Matthews has 34 tackles. Cameron Walker leads the way with three sacks and Rodney Tennie has two interceptions and four breakups.
The most impressive part of the Bulldogs’ could be its offensive and defensive lines.
Shamire Devine and Jermeri Hall have both committed to Georgia Tech, while Domimique Threatt has committed to South Florida. Marcus Adams has verbally committed to Western Kentucky.
“They are really big up front,” McDonald said. “We were able to scout them for one game, and they are big and athletic.”
This will be third meeting ever between the two schools. They last met in 2007 and Newnan holds a 2-0 edge.