High School Football
Cougars prepare to tackle talented Sandy Creek
by Doug Gorman
Two games into the 2013 season, Newnan head coach Mike McDonald has learned a couple of things about his football team.
Despite being young and inexperienced, the Cougars are showing their ability to put points on the scoreboard.
In two games, Newnan's (1-1) offense has already scored 63 points, 42 of which came last week on the road against LaGrange in a victory that erased much of the sting from an opening loss to Marietta.
'Winning definitely cures a lot of things,' McDonald said. 'We have had a good spirited week of practice and that just comes from getting out there and playing hard.'
He also has learned his team is going to compete for four quarters.
Newnan will not only need to continue to put up points, but also to find a way to slow down opponents after allowing 10 touchdowns through two games among a younger and less experienced defense than a year ago.
The Cougars unit will get another stiff test this week against defending Class AAAA state champion Sandy Creek, which still have something to proof after having its season opener against Plant High School out of Tampa halted by weather for a 27-27 tie.
It snapped a streak of 39 consecutive regular-season victories dating back to a 28-27 double-overtime loss to East Coweta in 2009 at Garland Shoemake Stadium.
'There are no secrets with them, we are going to have to go out there and compete,' McDonald said of Sandy Creek. 'We are going to need to come up with some big plays.'
Sandy Creek is ranked No. 1 in several Class AAAA state polls and fifth in Maxpreps. com national poll and can move the football both on the ground and in the air.
'The thing about them is the are so explosive,' McDonald said. 'They can strike for some big plays in a hurry. They can run and pass and they have a solid kicking game.'
A year ago, Sandy Creek cruised to a 38-7 victory over Newnan at Drake Stadium. While the Cougars have lost several key faces from that game to graduation, they've been able to quickly revamp its passing attack led by secondyear starter Bailey Bryant at quarterback.
With six touchdowns and no interceptions, Bryant is on a pace for a 2,000-yard passing season as a junior, having already gone 29 of 47 for 508 yards without an interception.
Last season, Newnan finished with five receivers that had four or more catches. Already, this year's corps has five with at least three receptions, with all but one being newcomers.
The group has been led by sophomore Randell Arnold's 10 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns. First-year senior Immanuel Griggs' 6-foot-8 inch frame has also provided a big target for seven receptions and 77 yards to go with two scores. Seniors Chrishawn Dix (4 rec, 84 yards TD) and Dee Snelling (4 rec, 85 yards) have also made an instant impact.
Newnan junior running back J.K. Britt might be the Cougars most versatile weapon. The sophomore has rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown, but he also has three catches, including one for a score.
Sandy Creek, however, will challenge Newnan with its own potent brand of offense led by senior quarterback Cole Garvin.
The Patriots also have two offensive weapons out of the backfield in senior Delvin Weems (182 yards, 3 TDs last week) and Eric Swinney (48 yards, TD).
Sandy Creek jumped on Newnan in last year's first ever football meeting between schools, outgaining the Cougars by a 303-93 margin at halftime starting with a 59-yard pass from Garvin to Kyle Wilson on its first play from scrimmage. Garvin finished 11 of 17 for 249 yards and two touchdowns against a veteran Newnan secondary led by three senior starters.
Newnan's only score came on a 14-yard fumble recovery by one of the trio, safety Darrell Morrow.