High School Football
Newnan ready for rematch with Colquitt to open playoffs
by Doug Gorman
Losing to a rival is never something a football team is prepared to deal with.
But the last time the Newnan Cougars faced a playoff opponent following a loss to East Coweta, the program certainly seemed poised to respond.
Two years ago after losing to the Indians to close out the regular season as a No. 4 seed, Newnan headed on the road to open the playoffs and upset region champion Valdosta 17-7.
So as the Cougars (6-4) head to the postseason for t he 1 2t h consecutive year, the situa t ion at hand is one from experience.
The bad news, though, is that Newnan also faces a fourhour bus ride to play Region 1-AAAAAA foe and fifth-ranked Colquitt County (8-2) in Moultrie, the program that eliminated the Cougars from last year's state playoffs.
'It's good to be one of the 32 teams still playing,' Newnan head coach Mike McDonald said. 'We would like to be playing at home, there are always challenges to making a road trip, but hopefully we are going to go down there and play well and get after it.'
The Packers finished second in Region 1-AAAAAA behind champion Camden County.
Colquitt and Camden went into the final week of the regular season before deciding their region fate.
Camden's 22-15 victory over Colquitt last week gave the Packers the No. 2-seed, but still allowed them to stay at home to open the playoffs against the Cougars. It was the Packers' first loss to Camden in three years.
It's the second straight year the Packers and Cougars have met, be it in new surroundings. A year ago, Colquitt held off Newnan 26-23 in the second round of the postseason at Drake Stadium.
Little has changed for Colquitt from the last meeting. Until losing to Camden County last week, the Packers spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the Class AAAAAA coaches' poll.
'They are very good, they return a lot, especially on defense,' McDonald said. 'Offensively they are good. They had to replace some guys on offense, but they are really a carbon copy of last year.'
The Packers enter the playoffs after winning seven of their last eight games.
Colquitt's only other loss came in a 24-10 decision to Hoover, Ala., the school current Packers coach Rush Propst turned into a state power before taking his current job.
McDonald knows the game plan heading into the playoff rematch.
'They are fast, they are going to play up tempo,' he said. 'They have a good running game and good throwing game. They are just a good football team.'
Colquitt's offense will challenge Newnan to stop both its run and pass. The Packers are led by senior quarterback Daniel Mobley, who finished 18 of 26 passing for 218 yards with one interception in the loss against Camden.
Packers' running back Sihiem King heads to the playoff game against the Cougars as the team's leading rusher with 1,051 yards. Against Camden he scored two touchdowns but was held to 46 yards.
Wide receiver Kiel Pollard is one of the Packers' biggest threats once he catches the football. Despite the loss against Camden, Pollard finished with three catches for 88 yards.
Newnan comes into the Friday's first-round game hoping to shake off the 24-7 loss to rival East Coweta.
The game at Drake Stadium was close to the very end before the Indians scored two touchdowns in the final 2:05 of the contest.
'It was a well-fought football game,' McDonald said. 'We had some chances and we just weren't able to connect.'
One of the things that hurt Newnan was keeping the ball 16 plays on one series and coming away without points.
Newnan finished the game with 246 yards in total offense. Junior quarterback Bailey Bryant finished 12 of 22 for 112 yards. His 31-yard touchdown pass to Dee Snelling with 9:07 left in the third quarter cut the Indians' lead to 10-7, but was the Cougars' only score.
The Cougars picked up 79 yards from Kelvin Khayyam on 12 carries.
'We have had a lot of growing pains on offense this year, but I thought the guys battled,' McDonald said. 'You have to give East Coweta credit on defense. If we had hit a couple of those
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big plays, it would have been a totally different deal. Our guys fought and their guys fought, it was a good game.' Bryant has been down the playoff road with Newnan before. Last season in his first year as a starter, he led the Cougars to a 38-0 win over Alcovy in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
A shoulder injury late in the game made Bryant's status doubtful for the second- round game against Colquitt.
However after Newnan ran some Wildcat packages during its first two series, Bryant entered the game during the Cougars' third drive and nearly led his team to the dramatic win over the Packers despite a sore shoulder that took even more punishment.
Bryant finished 16 of 27 for 103 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers after not practicing the entire week.
Newnan appeared to have the game won when current Georgia Bulldog freshman Tray Matthews intercepted pass late in the fourth quarter, but Colquitt got the ball back on a quick turnover and scored the winning touchdown with 1:38 remaining.
Playoff history from the 2011 upset in Valdosta hopes to also be on the Cougars' side, a game where the Wildcats were heavy favorites as a state-ranked region champion.
'We are just going to line up and play,' McDonald said. ' That's all you can do.'