Published Saturday, October 13, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
EAST POINT — It might have been homecoming at Tri-Cities Friday night, but the Newnan Cougars crashed the party.
Newnan built a 17-point lead at the half and held on for a 35-16 win. It was the Region 3-AAAAAA opener for both teams.
“It’s a good way to get the region started,” Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said. “We were able to make some big plays to come up with the victory.”
The Cougars moved their record to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in region play. Tri-Cities dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the region.
Newnan has now won four games in a row after dropping its only contest of the year to Sandy Creek.
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The Cougars built a 27-10 halftime lead by taking advantage of four of Tri-Cities’ five turnovers on the night.
The Bulldogs first-half turnovers were part of the Cougars’ 24-point, second-quarter explosion.
Newnan seized the momentum right before the end of the first half when quarterback Bailey Bryant hooked up with Tray Matthews on a 62-yard scoring strike. Bryant hit Matthews in stride and the Newnan senior did the rest for his fifth touchdown of the season racing down the center of the field untouched.
Newnan was just beginning its second-quarter fireworks.
The Cougars scored two defensive touchdowns in less than 20 seconds right before the end of the first half.
Tonaris Portress scored on a 19-yard fumble recovery and Rodney Tennie added a 20-yard fumble return after Tri-Cities coughed the ball up on its next possession to help the Cougars build a 27-7 lead.
“That was big,” McDonald said. “We were able to come up with a couple of big hits to create those turnovers.”
The Cougars had their own problems hanging to the football, fumbling the ball twice on the goal line in the second half to kill possible scoring drives.
“That’s something we have to work on,” McDonald said. “You can’t expect to win games if you are fumbling in that situation.”
After giving up a touchdown on the Bulldogs opening drive of the third quarter, Newnan marched 79 yards on its only series of the third quarter, but Tri-Cities forced the first two goal-line fumbles.
The Cougars second mistake in the second half happened after Tray Matthews intercepted a pass and returned it to Tri-Cities 25. The Cougars moved the ball to the one, but when Matthews attempted to leap over the top after Newnan put him in the wildcat formation, the ball popped out and was ruled a touchback after Tri-Cities recovered the ball in the end zone.
Newnan’s defense came up big on its the ensuing series, sacking the Tri-Cities quarterback twice and getting the ball back on downs.
The Cougars put the final touches on their side of the scoreboard as J.K. Britt found the end zone on a 24-yard run with a little over a minute left.
Newnan drew first blood in the opening quarter taking advantage of a fumble by Tri-Cities in Bulldog territory.
Maurice White pounced on the fumble for Newnan, but after the Cougars’ offense was stopped inside the Bulldogs’ 10, Tyler Mulvenna booted a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs struck right back after Devin Price returned the ensuing kickoff past midfield. A personal foul penalty by Newnan moved the ball to the Cougars 35. Tri-Cities capped the drive when Kelton Franklin scored from eight yards to give the Bulldogs the 7-3 lead.
Newan put together another long drive midway though the second quarter before having to settle for Mulvenna’s second field goal.
This time he split the uprights from 22 yards out but Newnan still trailed 7-6. Newnan kept the drive of alive after when Britt rushed 28 yards on a third-and-long situation to help set up the eventual field goal.
After Newnan scored its three touchdowns in the span of about 30 seconds, Tri-Cities added its final score of the second quarter. With the Bulldogs running the ball out of the shot gun, Torei Jones converted a third down pass to keep the drive alive. All-State kicker Chris Hernandez missed wide right on a 51-yard field goal, but a five-yard penalty by Newnan gave the Bulldogs another chance.
This time, Hernandez made good on the 46-yard field goal for the Bulldogs final points of the first half.
Franklin cut the Newnan lead to 27-16 on the first drive of the third quarter. Franklin capped a14-play drive when he converted a 1-yard run on fourth down, a scoring march that took nearly six minutes.
Newnan moved 79 yard on its first drive of the third quarter, but were unable to convert after Tri-Cities forced the first of the two fumbles at the goal line.
Newnan returns to Drake Stadium next week for a game against Langston Hughes in another region showdown.
SCORING SUMMARY – Newnan 34, Tri-Cities 16
Newnan 3 24 0 7 — 34
Tri-Cities 7 3 6 0 — 16
N – Tyler Mulvenna 24 FG
TC – Kelton Franklin 8 run (kick good)
N – Mulvenna 22 FG
N – Bailey Bryant 62 yard pass to Tray Matthews, (Mulvenna kick)
N – Tonaris Portress 19 fumble return (Mulvenna kick)
N – Rodney Tennie 20 fumble return (Mulvenna kick)
TC – Chris Hernandez 46 FG
TC – Franklin 1 run (kicked failed)
N – Britt 24 yard run (Mulvenna kick)