Winning the Hard-A-Way

Hines helps Cougars withstand upset bid on Homecoming

by Chris Goltermann

No disrespect to newly-crowned queen Mindy Griffith, but Newnan’s newest running back was the king of Friday’s Homecoming victory over Hardaway. 

 Making his varsity debut at running back, sophomore Darryel Hines scored three times in the first half while finishing with 185 yards on the first 30 carries of his season during a 29-27 win over the Golden Hawks at Drake Stadium. Newnan had to rally with a late field goal to overcome a 1-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.

With the Cougars’ leading rusher J.K. Britt hobbled by an ankle injury entering Friday’s and then injuring his other ankle on defense, Hines’ rookie outing saw the sophomore getting the ball on more than half of Newnan’s offensive snaps.

Yet it also took a concerted defensive effort by the Cougars and a clutch 18-yard field goal by Conner Cox with just under five minutes remaining for Newnan to survive Homecoming night with a victory against a much-improved Hardaway team that had welcomed back star runner Justin Crawford to the lineup.

“He’s a good football player, but we found a way to win the game,” said Newnan head coach Mike McDonald. “Crawford is an exciting player and they’ve got a good football team. He didn’t play last week, but we knew we were going to see him.” The win pushed the Cougars’ record to 3-2 overall heading into a final bye week prior to the start of Region 3-AAAAAA play on Oct. 11 against Tri-Cities.

The latest effort may not have been as elegant as the Homecoming ladies in beaded gowns, but Newnan may have found yet another explosive weapon on offense in the process with both Britt and senior wide receiver Immanuel Griggs hobbled by injuries. Griggs sat out the game with a knee injury.

No stranger to the end zone, Hines had 16 touchdowns as an eighth-grader while leading Smokey Road Middle School, but he hadn’t attempted a varsity carry while entering the season listed as a 5-8, 155-pound wide receiver.

“Darryel’s been coming on for us. We’ve tried to play him in the slot, but we’ve found out that he’s a running back. He really showed up and earned those carries,” said McDonald of a ground game split between Hines and Kelvin Khayyam, with Damion Key also hurting. “I thought Kelvin did a good job, too. He can be a physical-type runner and we need more of that.”

Crawford, who didn’t play in the Hawks’ 63-0 loss at Lowndes last week, scored three times from opposite ends of the field while causing all sorts of problems on offense and special teams.

The junior Division I prospect, who confirmed Friday he already has offers from Georgia, Alabama and Louisville, ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, turned a short pass into a 56-yard score, and then put his team in the lead in the final minute of the third quarter with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown that also ended the night of Newnan standout junior J.K. Britt, who turned an ankle during a collision on the final attempt to catch the elusive returner.

Britt entered the game with a high-ankle sprain with Newnan holding him to defensive and special teams duties only. He made an impact in both areas, hauling in one of three Cougar interceptions, two of which came on halfback-option passes by Crawford. Britt also had a 35-yard punt return to set up Hines’ second touchdown that gave the Cougars what seemed like a more comfortable 26-14 lead at halftime.

By the time Griffith accepted her crown, Hines had picked up 87 yards and three touchdowns on 15 attempts. Six of those runs came to close Newnan’s first scoring drive after falling behind early 7-0 when Hardaway marched 80 yards on 11 plays, with Crawford accounting for three yards of the drive.

The 6-1, 192-pound junior continued to slip through the hands of Cougars defenders, rushing for 100 yards by halftime while adding a 56-yard touchdown catch with six minutes left until the break to pull Hardaway to within a 20-14 deficit. Hines helped Newnan regain the two-score advantage after Britt’s punt return gave the Cougars the ball at the Hawks’ 7 yard line, needing three plays to hit paydirt.

But Hardaway stormed back after halftime, first with a 13-play drive that got a boost from a fourth-down offsides penalty by Newnan’s defense to pull within 26-21 on quarterback Blake Berry’s 2-yard run.

After the Cougars were held three-and-out, Crawford grabbed a punt at his own 24-yard line, broke to his right and then found a hole inside before eventually eluding Britt and another defender inside the Newnan 30-yard line to take a 29-27 lead.

Held on downs inside the Hardaway 30 on their next possession, the Cougars got a stop of their own on three plays before Hines led the go-ahead march midway through the final period, carrying the ball on six of eight snaps. The biggest came on Khayyam’s 23-yard rumble off the right side to eventually set up Cox’s eventual game-winning kick.

•••

COUGARS 29, GOLDEN HAWKS 27

Hardaway 7 7 13 0 — 27

Newnan 14 12 0 3 — 29

1st Quarter

H — Darius Blackmon 6 run (kick good), 4:30

N — Darryel Hines 1 run (Conner Cox kick), 2:31

N — Dee Snelling 12 run (Cox kick), 0:00

2nd Quarter

N — Hines 1 run (kick failed), 7:07

H — Jordan Crawford 56 pass from Blake Berry (kick good), 5:42

N — Hines 1 run (run failed), 1:21

3rd Quarter

H — Blake Berry 2 run (kick good), 5:10

H — Crawford 76-yard punt return (kick failed), 1:03

4th Quarter

N — Conner Cox 18-yard field goal, 4:45



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