East Coweta gets back on track, tops NewtonBy MANNY FILS
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
COVINGTON — What a difference a week made for the East Coweta Indians in Friday's first round of the Class AAAAAA state football playoffs.
A week after turning the ball over four times, East Coweta took advantage of Newton's mistakes in a 25-20 victory at Homer Sharp Stadium, advancing to play No. 1 state-ranked Camden County in next week's second round in Kingsland. Camden beat Hillgrove 52-17 in its first-round victory.
Special teams play and penalties also proved to be a difference-maker for East Coweta (5-6). Poor punts on Newton's part allowed the Indians (5-6) to start their drives in Rams (6-5) territory twice resulting in touchdowns each time.
“That was huge because we can flip the field,” East Coweta head coach Clint Wade said. “It made a big difference in the game. They had a great game plan, those coaches do a great job. They had their kids prepared; they have a lot to be proud of.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Newton tried to key on running back Dee Godfrey, who had 18 carries for 123 yards only to see his Indians teammates make big plays.
“He's like the energizer bunny. He never stops,” Wade said of Godfrey.
Junior quarterback Bryce Gemmel picked up 40 yards on two carries and then completed a 24-yard pass to fullback Malik Robinson before Godfrey punched it in the final two yards to put the Indians ahead 7-0 with 8:26 left in the first half.
Gemmel, who ran the ball 11 times for 68 yards, was also 11 of 17 passing for 146 yards.
The Rams marched down the field trying to tie the game but fumbled on a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line in the closing minute of the first half. However, the Indians returned the favor, turning the ball back over to Newton at the East Coweta 2. From there, Rams senior James Hardeman ran it in, but a missed PAT left the Indians ahead at halftime, 7-6.
Newton opened the third quarter with a time-consuming 80-yard drive dominated by 14 runs to grab its only lead of the game. Hardeman's second touchdown, from eight yards out, pushed the Rams ahead 12-7 with six minutes left in the period.
But East Coweta took advantage of another Newton special team miscue on a 17-yard punt that gave the Indians prime field-position at the Rams' 34. It only took three snaps before Godfrey scored from 18 yards out to give the Indians a lead for good, ahead 15-12 following a reverse pass for the 2-point conversion. A razzle-dazzle play saw Godfrey give the ball to Nigel Gay who found Gemmel in the end zone.
East Coweta turned to the senior again to help push the game out of reach. The Indians again moved the ball inside the 10 and picked up a key fourth-down conversion. Two plays later, Godfrey scored from 2 yards out to up the lead to 22-12.
On Newton's ensuing possession, Godfrey made a leaping interception on a Kemani Pittman pass. That set up Spencer Smith's 27-yard field goal to push the Indians' further ahead 25-12 with 3:13 left.
The Rams managed a late score on a 5-yard pass from Pittman to David Comer with 29 seconds left, but East Coweta's kickoff team recovered a Newton onside kick to hold on for the win.