Headed Into Homecoming
Cougars look to stay on course after off week
by Chris Goltermann
If Newnan's 2013 football season was a cross-country trek from Maine to California, last week would have been considered a five-star hotel somewhere in the Midwest or at the very least, a well-deserved rest stop.
Nearly halfway through their journey, the horiz on has leveled off a bit for the Cougars (2-2) headi ng i n to Friday's Homecoming game against Hardaway (2-2), which is also off to a similar start as last year.
But Newnan head coach Mike McDonald knows his team can't afford straying off course during a 21-day stretch that only includes this week's home game against the Hawks before heading straight into the Region 3-AAAAAA schedule on Oct. 11.
Surveying the current status of 3-AAAAAA opponents, the road to a possible region title will be no easy climb.
'The region this year looks wide open,' he said. 'Of course you've got to look at Langston Hughes, but it looks like a lot of teams have really improved. You've got Westlake, Douglas County, Tri-Cities. (And) East Coweta is playing really well right now. So there's not a lot of room for error.'
Outside of Newnan's opening loss to Marietta, both the Cougars and Hardaway have followed near identical paths as in 2012. Last year's meeting, however, sent them in opposite directions, with Newnan winning six of its last seven regular- season games before reaching the second-round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
The Cougars are coming off arguably their most dominating effort of the year against Troup, though a 17-7 win didn't translate directly to the scoreboard. The offense, while struggling to add more points to the victory, gained a seasonhigh 245 yards rushing for its second-straight effort over the 200 mark. Quarterback Bailey Bryant added a touchdown throw for the fourth consecutive week to begin the season in a 77-yard passing effort while connecting 11 of 17 attempts.
'A lot of things that happened were self-inflicted. We Mark Harris.
tried to get a bit better on executing and on defense, tackling better,' McDonald said. 'But defensively, I thought we played real well. Our defense shut them out. We moved the ball down the field, we just didn't finish at times and we've got to do a better job of that.'
The Hawks, meanwhile, are in the same position they were heading into Friday's trip to Drake Stadium. Last year's meeting in Columbus, which ended in a 38-7 Newnan victory, was part of an eventual seven-game slide that led to a 3-7 finish for Hardaway. The team is coming off back-toback losses to Class AAAAAA No. 10-ranked Lowndes (63-0) and Shaw (22-17), but that hasn't lessened McDonald's image of his team's next opponent.
Hardaway is led by running back Justin Crawford, who scored six times between victories over Jordan (51-18) and Columbus (21-7) to open the season. In only five games while awaiting eligibility from the Georgia High School Association, he had 825 yards and seven touchdowns on 96 carries.
'Their much improved over what they were last year. They've got a running back who is a Division I caliber player who moved in from Florida,' McDonald said. 'They're big up front on defense. They look good on film and they're coming off a trip to Lowndes, which isn't easy.'
After starting the season with an influx of youth and inexperience at key positions, including the secondary, several new faces are beginning to emerge as stalwarts in the lineup, while some of this year's returning talents - like junior J.K. Britt - are equally developing into leaders.
Britt is coming off his first 100-plus yard rushing effort after gaining season highs of 134 yards and 24 carries while scoring a touchdown. First-year starter Rendall Arnold leads this year's receivers with 19 catches while one of six players with at least three pass receptions this year.
Both Britt and Frankey Williams had interceptions, with Williams adding his second of the year in his first season as a starter.
Newnan's defense also finished with three sacks and eight tackles for loss in addition to a forced fumble and recovery from senior defensive lineman Mark Harris.