High School Football
Panthers, new QB, still pack punch while awaiting Newnan
by Chris Goltermann
The San Francisco 49ers followed their gut last year when it switched starting quarterbacks midway through the season and were rewarded with a trip to the Super Bowl.
So far, a similar move prior to the start of this fall has equally been smooth for Langston Hughes' football team.
The defending Region 3-AAAAAA champions had a Second-Team All-Region quarterback in Kenny Moxey last season, but with a chance to add another playmaker at receiver, handed the ball to talented junior Kinan Humphrey at the beginning of the year.
The result has been an offense that has now averaged 37 points a game following a 58-0 rout of Douglas County in last Friday's Region 3-AAAAAA opener. And that's before the mention of a Panthers defense led by junior lineman DeAndre Walker that has given up seven points combined to their last three opponents.
But count Newnan head coach Mike McDonald and his staff among those who understand the challenge the Cougars (4-2, 1-0) face this week when they travel to Fairburn following a 14-9 victory over Tri-Cities last Friday's to open the region schedule.
Langston Hughes (5-2, 1-0) hasn't been challenged since a season opening loss to undefeated Creekside (7-0), which was playing an emotional first game since the death of junior safety DeAntre Turman. 'They've got a lot of talent. Defensively they're good all over. The get after it with that front four they have,' McDonald said of Hughes. 'Last year they were able to get [Humphrey] some experience as just a sophomore. He throws the ball real well.'
It adds up to a daunting task for a Newnan lineup that started six sophomores on offense last week, including three on the offensive front. That group held its own outside of one bad snap exchange, a penalty and a sack allowed while paving the way for another 100-yard game from another 10th grader, running back Darryel Hines.
But it'll take an even more concerted effort to keep Hughes' front-four from getting into the offensive backfield. Along with the 6-3, 210-pound Walker, who finished with 21 sacks last season, the Panthers returned juniors Jeremiah Culbreth, Conner Johnson and Deontae Jackson up front.
'They don't need to bring much pressure outside their front four,' McDonald said. 'That's what makes it tough.'
A defense that also includes All-Region First-Team linebackers Montavious Atkinson and Kalil Gray was responsible for scoring 14 points last week. They included touchdowns on an 83-yard interception return by Chance Turner just before halftime and a 17-yard fumble return by Keyshaun Clark that pushed a 52-0 lead over Douglas County.
Moxie caught a 45 yardtouchdown from Humphrey during 30-point third-quarter outburst where the Panthers eventually doubled a 28-point halftime lead.
Meanwhile, between Hines' 27 carries last week among 30 rushing attempts by the Cougars and quarterback Bailey Bryant's 150 yards passing, Newnan was able to generate enough offense to get past a stingy Tri-Cities team that aided the process with 17 penalties called, the last of which clinched the game. The Bulldogs led 3-0 for just six minutes and were held out of the end zone until taking advantage of a fourth-quarter interception and converting on a three-play drive with 5:19 to play before Newnan ran out the clock.
'I thought our defense played well,' McDonald said. 'The late interception hurt us a little bit, but I thought we stayed in control of the game. We kept fighting and kept playing. Darryel's done a good job the last couple of weeks running the ball effectively. But we haven't had that explosiveness on offense.'
It's where junior running back J.K. Britt seemed destined to carry Newnan until suffering ankle injuries over consecutive Friday's. The latter, which came to his opposite leg while defending a punt return against Hardaway, forced him to stay on the sidelines last week as a precaution.
'He's been running well in practice, but with a high ankle sprain like that we just didn't want to take that chance,' McDonald said of Britt. 'Had he taken one more good shot, you're looking at losing him possibly for the season. We'll see how it goes this week and keep an eye on him.'
A Cougar defense that aided last week's win with three takeaways on fumble recoveries, a pair by Tonarius Portress and Mark Harris on Tri-Cities' final two possessions of the first half, could also get a boost if Britt returns.
Minus Britt, Newnan has also been using freshman Kadarius Satterwhite both in the secondary and on punt returns.
Against the Bulldogs, Newnan welcomed back Frankie Williams to the secondary and the 5-9, 144-pound junior responded with four pass breakups before Tri-Cities found a mismatch with a 6-8 receiver for its only score on a timing route.
Tri-Cities had an 12-play drive to open the second half that included just one penalty stall near the Newnan 40 following a pass breakup by Portress, a tackle for loss and another incomplete pass.
'I thought we got after the quarterback a good bit,' McDonald said. 'I thought it was one of our better games defensively.'
Newnan's defense, however, will have to keep an eye on Hughes senior Keion Davis, who continues to build on last year's All-Region First Team selection. Last week, Davis scored four times, including 1 and 44-yard runs during a 21-point surge in the second quarter in a 7-0 lead against Douglas County.
A year ago at Drake Stadium, Davis had three touchdowns against the Cougars in a 34-14 victory including a 65-yard run with 6:35 to play after Newnan had closed to within a 20-14 deficit.
'If he gets to the corner clean he can take it the distance with his speed,' McDonald said.