Indians become third straight visiting team to win in rivalry
by Chris Goltermann
Of all the traditions that the rivalry between East Coweta and Newnan has brought over the first 22 meetings between football programs, another seemed to emerge out of the Indians' 24-7 victory at Drake Stadium on Friday.
The road to victory … has come by way of a short bus ride across the county.
For the third consecutive season, the visiting team got a chance to celebrate in the backdrop of their closest rival's home field.
Using a 56-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper by senior Bryce Gemmel to take a lead for good on the second snap of the game, East Coweta was able to both clinch a state playoff berth and secured a chance to return to the reservation at Garland Shoemake Stadium after leapfrogging the Cougars for second place in Region 3-AAAAAA.
The Indians will now host Lowndes, the No. 3 seed from 1-AAAAAA, next Friday, while the loss pushed Newnan into third place from 3-AAAAAA and assured a trip to Moultrie to face Colquitt County, 1-AAAAAA's runner-up.
The win also gave East Coweta a 12-10 series lead over the Cougars and first rights to the Brantley-Knott Water Cooler trophy.
It was a far cry from where East Coweta was a week earlier following its most disappointing loss of the year at home against Douglas County, one that left the Indians' playoff status in jeopardy.
On Friday, the Indians outgained Newnan 308-246 and, more importantly, made fewer mistakes, running the ball nearly the entire second half and racking up nearly as many yards (244) on the ground as the Cougars, who hurt themselves with two fumbles, an interception and a costly turnover on downs with just over two minutes to play trailing 10-7 on East Coweta's 33-yard line.
A 180-degree turn on Friday for East Coweta (5-5, 3-2) was more than enough to satisfy head coach Clint Wade, who literally had to wade through a sea of bodies, some in celebration, others with helmets tucked low, to finally reach wife Lorraine and family for a hug.
'We looked like a different team tonight. That's the way we should have been playing all season,' he said. 'I'm proud of our players and I'm especially proud of our coaching staff. They did a heck of a job. I'm just the figurehead, so to speak. Newnan's got a heck of a team. But our kids were resilient.'
Carrying the early 7-0 lead into halftime, East Coweta took advantage of two Newnan turnovers in the second half, made a key defensive stop leading 10-7 with just under two minutes to play, just when the Cougars found a groove on offense, and then put the game out of reach two snaps later on Weylin Orr's 66-yard jaunt.
Hampered by injury not long after opening the year with a four-touchdown effort to beat Henry County, Orr was finally able to contribute again for East Coweta to close the regular season, finishing the win over the Cougars with a 126-yard effort and a touchdown on 12 carries.
'After that game against Henry County, it had been frustrating. But tonight I was able to help my team,' said Orr, who broke up the middle, eluded an tackler near his ankles and made a cut for the sidelines before outracing the rest of the pack and stretching the ball at the goal-line. 'I was looking for the zone.'
Gemmel's second score in the closing minute - one that was designed more to keep the clock running with a forward push, according to Wade, who said he 'didn't want to score' in that situation - may have sealed the win. The senior quarterback finished with 89 yards rushing on 11 carries, none more crucial than his first attempt on a fake handoff.
'He's a great athlete,' said Newnan head coach Mike McDonald. 'We knew he was going to be a factor in the game at some point. He found a hole and we didn't adjust.'
But a 10-7 game with just over two minutes to go in the game boiled down to two plays. The first kept the Cougars from continuing a sixplay drive from the East Coweta 33 yard-line in a three-point deficit.
Newnan broke through on a nine-play drive that carried into the fourth quarter, scoring on a 31-yard catch and run from quarterback Bailey Bryant to Dee Snelling, who cut back on a defender and ran diagonally to the left pylon to close within a field goal with 9:07 to play. The possession was salvaged by a heads-up play that had Bryant diving on a Cougar fumble and then converting the touchdown pass one play later after Newnan was called for a false start.
The Cougars then quickly marched 35 yards on two plays to open its next possession after forcing an East Coweta punt, getting the ball to the Indians' 28 before a costly delay-of-game penalty set up fourth and 15. A throw from Bryant eluded the reach of an open Chrishawn Dix and fell to the turf incomplete.
Two snaps later, Orr was headed the other direction to put the game out of reach.
'We gave up two big plays and we turned it over a couple of times. We had some opportunities and we weren't able to connect. You've got to give credit to East Coweta. They played hard and they played well,' McDonald said. 'We had our opportunities and we just missed.'
The Indians had pushed it to 10-0 on Cole Antley's 19-yard chip shot off the first miscue and then putting an exclamation point on the victory in the closing two minutes when Gemmel barreled in from the two for a 24-7 lead with 25 seconds remaining shortly after an interception by teammate Michael Singleton.
Outside of Gemmel's 56-yard touchdown run 14 seconds into the game, the first half was as much a see-saw battle of field position between rivals that included swapping possessions on lost fumbles.
Newnan looked to catch a break after recovering a high snap from center that was recovered by senior defensive end Chris Porter at the East Coweta 22.
But the Cougars coughed the ball up immediately when a short pass to the right received a quick push from the Indians defense, which ripped the ball loose andc it was fallen on by Indian senior Devonte Parker.
Indians 24, Cougars 7
East Coweta 7 0 3 14 - 24 Newnan 00 07- 7 1st Quarter EC - Bryce Gemmel 56 run (Cole Antley kick), 11:36 3rd Quarter EC - Antley 19-yard field goal, 7:37 Fourth Quarter N - Dee Snelling 31 pass from Bailey Bryant (Connor Cox kick), 9:07 EC - Weylin Orr 66 run (Antley kick), 2:05 EC - Gemmel 2 run (Antley kick), :30 Team St atistic s
EC NEW First Downs 8 10 Rushes-Yds 32-244 31-131 Pass Att-Comp-Int 8-12-0 12-22-1 Passing Yards 64 112 Total Yards 308 246 Penalties-Yards 6-43 5-25 Fumbles-Lost 3-1 5-2 Third-down Conv. 2-for-9 6-for-15 Fourth-down Conv. 0-for-0 2-for-4 Individual St ati stic s Rushing: Newnan - Kelvin Khayyam 12-79, Tonarius Portress 4-21, Dee Snelling 1-18, J.K. Britt 4-7, Bailey Bryant 6-5, Darryel Hines 1-1; East Coweta - Weylin Orr 12-126, Bryce Gemmel 11-89, Malik Robinson 9-29.
Passing: Newnan - Bailey Bryant 12-22-0112-1; Bryce Gemmel 8-12-0-64-0
Receiving: Newnan - Spencer Perry 3-57, Dee Snelling 3-46, Randell Arnold 3-18, Chrishawn Dix 3-9; East Coweta - E.J. Ransom 2-19, Markell Boston 2-14, Reagan Thomas 2-8, Weylin Orr 1-10, Chaz Cherry 1-5.