Prep Football: Newnan uses second-half surge, beats East Coweta
By DOUG GORMAN
One year after turning a 19-0 lead at the half into a stunning loss, Newnan reclaimed bragging rights for the next 12 months against their biggest rival.
This time the Cougars turned a 7-7 halftime tie into a 21-7 victory over East Coweta on the road in front of packed house on both sides of the Garland Shoemake Stadium in Sharpsburg.
Newnan improved to 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the region. East Coweta, which drops to 4-6 overall and 3-2 in region play, still makes the playoffs, but will open the postseason on the road.
East Coweta was its own worst enemy Friday with four turnovers, including three interceptions.
Throwing in some costly penalties – including one at the end of the first half that took a touchdown off the scoreboard– and things didn’t go the Indians way too much Friday night.
“They had a little momentum at times, so we were able to stop drives and in the second half, we just kind of gained some momentum,” Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said.
Newnan’s Rodney Tennie had two of the interceptions and Tonaris Portress one for the Cougars to help kill East Coweta drives.
“This is always a great rivalry,” Tennie said “I was just so excited to get those two interceptions. We came in here knowing we needed a win, and it is just great to be able to stay home next week.”
East Coweta gave the ball back to the Cougars in the second quarter after moving the ball to the eight before the Newnan defense forced one of the Indians’ most costly turnovers.
This time, Newnan might have gotten a break as it appeared East Coweta quarterback Bryce Gemmel’s arm was coming forward on a pass attempt in what looked to the naked eye like an incomplete pass. The officiating crew saw it differently.
“We can’t make excuses,” East Coweta head coach Clint Wade said. “It was ruled a fumble, and it changed momentum. The way we handled adversity, we just didn’t play very well. You have to give Newnan credit, they had a good game plan.”
With the victory, Newnan has now won nine of the last 10 meetings against the Indians.
Friday’s was also big in the Region 3-AAAAAA standings since the Cougars will now stay at home for the first round of the next week’s GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs and will host Alcovy.
(To view photos from this game, visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports / Football for the Photo Gallery.)
Newnan gained momentum with a five-play, 80-yard drive to open the second half. Using a no-huddle offense to keep the Indians off-balance, the Cougars was able to march down field in less than two minutes.
“That was really big,” McDonald said. “Our coaches did a really good job with the play calling and we were able to strike early in the second half.
The Cougars capped the drive when Bailey Bryant threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Traon Moss to give Newnan the 14-7 lead.
“We been going over some of those plays all week, and we were just hoping they would be there,” Moss said.
Running back Quinton Dix had been the go-to guy on offense most of the night, but one play after he went out with an injury, J.K.Britt scored on a 23-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game to cap the drive.
For more than a quarter and a half, the game was a defensive struggle with both squads failing to score.
The end of the second quarter was an offensive shootout with both teams putting the ball in the end zone once in the span of about three minutes.
East Coweta took a 7-0 lead with 3:14 left in the half when Dee Godfrey capped an 80-yard drive in eight plays.
The Indians running back was the workhorse during the drive, but the Indians also moved the ball through the air when Nigel Gay caught a 19-yard pass.
Gemmel connected on four passes in a row in the first half to help the Indians move the ball into Newnan territory three times only to come away with the one score.
Newnan marched right down field on its next series and tied the game on Quinton Dix’s 5-yard run. Newnan converted one third down play during the series, but the biggest play of the night came when Bailey Bryant connected with wide receiver Moss on a 57-yard pass to set up the touchdown.
Moss was covered on the play, but leaped in the air and came down with the ball for the big gain. The Newnan senior wide receiver had catches of 57, 54 and 46 yards to end his night of big plays.
East Coweta appeared to score on the last play of the first half when Gemmel found Markel Boston wide open in the end zone, but it was called back on an ineligible receiver downfield penalty.
Godfrey turned in some electrifying plays for the Indians including two, 14-yard gains. He also had catches of 17 and 21 yards in the loss.
Despite his disappointment, Wade knows the season isn’t over as the Indians head into next week’s playoff.
“We have challenged our kids to come out and keep working hard,.” he said. “We know we still have something to play for.
Newnan will host Alcovy, the No. 3 seed out of Region 2-AAAAAA, while East Coweta travels to play former Region 2-AAAAA foe Newton, which finished second in its new region.
SCORING SUMMARY – Newnan 21, East Coweta 7
Newnan 0 7 14 0 — 21
East Coweta 0 7 0 0 — 7
EC – Dee Godfrey 4 run (Spencer Smith kick), 3:14
N – Quinton Dix 5 run (Tyler Mulvenna kick), :58
N – Bailey Bryant 54 pass to Traon Moss (Mulvenna kick), 10:12
N – J.K. Britt 23 run (Mulvenna kick), 3:02