High School Football
Despite big win, Cougars turn focus to Marietta
by Doug Gorman
Newnan head coach Mike McDonald won’t allow himself to get caught up in the moment of watching a great football game.
So when defensive back Frankie Williams timed a pass just right, and returned it 48 yards for an eventual game-winning touchdown with 2:43 left at Carrollton last Friday, only then did he allow himself to enjoy his team’s hard-fought 28-22 win.
During the previous 45-plus minutes of play, the Cougars’ coaching staff were too busy trying to come up with a gameplan to beat the Tro- jans to bask in the moment among lead changes and big plays from both teams at a jam-packed Grisham Stadium.
Even then, McDonald didn’t stay in celebration mode too long, putting last week’s second-half rally in the rear-view mirror quickly so he could shift his attention to this week’s home opener against Marietta on Friday at Drake Stadium.
“Everybody told me it was a great football game,” McDonald said. “I don’t think about all of that. We are just trying to win the game. Frankie came up with a big play, and that was huge.”
The agenda for Newnan now is getting ready for another non-region challenge against a team that went 8-3 last year including a 52-21 win over the Cougars last season, but has struggled since ending the 2013 season in the first round of the state playoffs.
An 0-2 Blue Devils lineup is still looking for their first win of 2014 after dropping contests to Etowah (48-20) and Walton (36-28).
But McDonald only sees Marietta as a program that had its way with the Cougars at Drake Stadium last year.
“They put it on us pretty good, and we haven’t for- gotten it, McDonald said. “They haven’t won yet, but they are a good football team.”
Newnan is ready to take the momentum from last week’s win into Friday’s season opener.
“It’s going to be exciting to get back here and play at home in front of our fans. Marietta is a good football team and can make things happen.
Newnan’s defense will be tested by a couple of familiar faces out of the Blue Devils’ backfield in run- ning back KirVonte Benson (5-8, 191) and quarterback Brenton Martin.
The duo made it a long night for the Cougars in last season’s game after Martin exploited the Newnan defense with 248 yards passing and five touchdowns. Bentson added 148 yards in his first year as a starter after replacing current LSU standout Anthony Jen- nings last fall.
“Those two guys kind of make them go,” McDonald said.
One message McDonald has tried to convey to his team this week is Marietta is better than it slow start indicates.
“You can just see them keep getting better,” McDonald said. “The have some really good personnel, and they are going to be a challenge.”
In the first week of the season, the Cougars spread around its offense with a mix of runs and passes, and the squad is hoping it works again this week, Newnan’s success moving the football against Carrollton showcased balance between its passing attack (157 yards) and ground game, rushing for 144 yards.
Sophomore quarterback Bailey Bryant had success whether under center and in the shotgun, competing 14 of 24 passes, including a key 17-yard touchdown late in the first half to Randell Arnold after falling behind 10-0.
A key for Friday might be increasing the rotation among Newnan’s backfield, which was limited to J.K. Britt, Kel- vin Khayyam and Damion Key last week. Britt, who had a team-high eight tackles, also rushed for 83 yards on 14 carries. Britt played a game-high 106 snaps.
The good news for the group is that Marquis Hill and Darryel Hines are back from injuries after not getting into last week’s against the Trojans.
“We are glad we didn’t have to play them last week, but getting back in the lineup is big, it will give us a chance to rest JK a little bit on offense,” McDonald said.
Britt, who has verbally committed to North Carolina, could still have a busy night. Marietta’s defense allowed Etowah’s Raishod Devezin to run for 274 yards and five touchdowns. D’Shun Rosser finished the game with five tackles and K.D. Satterwhite and linebacker Emanuel Bridges added 4 each.