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RGR | Big 4th quarter hands Hutch 28-10 win over Newton: Recap and takeaways
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NEWTON, Kan. — With 27 seconds left in the third quarter, junior fullback Dorian Hippen (25 car, 123 yds, 3 TD) scored from five yards out to give Hutchinson (2-2) its first lead of the night over Newton (0-4) en route to 28 unanswered points to spoil the Railers’ homecoming, 28-10.
Prior to that, Newton had built a 10-0 lead thanks to a 44-yard field goal from Colin Hershberger and a touchdown pass from Colby Gomez (10-23, 110 yds, 1 INT) to Camden Carr (4 rec, 42 yds) that followed a successful onside kick recovery.
That advantage was kept intact until right before halftime, when Hippen scored his first touchdown of the night for Hutch to cut the Railers’ lead to only three with 30 seconds left. All the momentum Newton had built to that point changed direction, and the Salthawks never looked back on their way to a double-digit victory.
Despite the defeat, there’s plenty of positive takeaways for Jaax’s squad. It put together nearly three very solid quarters of football — something it hasn’t done all season — and that shouldn’t go unnoticed. However, there’s obviously plenty of learning opportunities as well, and some have become repetitive.
1 — Defense didn’t back down from physicality
Ahead of Friday night’s game, I wrote how the front seven of Newton’s defense — which had struggled against the run so far this season — would have to match the physical nature of Hutch’s flexbone offense.
For the vast majority of three quarters, it did this — including forcing multiple turnovers that led to points. In the final frame, it was put in some unfavorable situations due to offensive turnovers, which makes the box score highly misleading.
In addition to the front seven’s performance, senior defensive back Luke Hirsh could be found making plays from sideline-to-sideline, laying down big hits — with some in big moments. As the noted leader of the Railers’ defense, he set the tone early and the rest of the unit followed suit.
Key stat: Hutch rushed for 206 total yards. If Jaax would’ve been told his stat before the game, he likely would’ve expected his team to win — and rightfully so.
The Salthawks rushed for over 330 yards a week ago, which is a testament to just how well this Newton defense performed in the trenches.
2 — James Hulse finding his footing
When senior running back Kenyon Forest underwent season-ending surgery following the Railers’ week two loss to Derby, there were questions surrounding who would anchor the position moving forward.
Against Maize, there was a split workload between sophomore RB James Hulse and junior WR Isaac Klug. This week, Hulse was on the field for every meaningful snap.
Newton’s play-calling attempted to get him going early, calling his number on three straight rushes to open the game. And despite a slow start, Hulse visibly found increasing comfort in his new role as the game went on. This is, obviously, a significant positive for the Railers moving forward. They have their ground game back.
Key stat: 46 yards on 18 carries might not sound impressive, but when Hulse needed to pick up a crucial third down, he did it. When he needed to pick up four or five on second down, he did it.
His efficiency on first down could certainly improve, but remember: He’s just one of the ten underclassmen starting on Newton’s offense. The skillset is there — the experience is still being developed.
3 — Penalties cleaned up
Through the first three weeks of the season, one of the Railers’ primary team-wide concerns was committing untimely penalties. Far too often, offensive drives were stalled or the defense was kept on the field longer than expected because of this issue.
On Friday, though, this problem disappeared for the most part. The only *major* flag was a 15-yard horse-collar penalty that moved Hutch into Newton territory. Other than that, the team played a very clean game.
Key stat: The Railers were only flagged on three occasions for 25 yards. For a squad that has struggled to put up points thus far, consistency in discipline will be essential to finding the win column.
1 — Fourth quarter turnovers: A recipe for disaster
It’s a problem that Newton can’t seem to shake: Turning the ball over in less-than-ideal circumstances. After three quarters of turnover-less football, the issue resurfaced in the fourth quarter — right as the Railers were looking to regain the lead and put themselves in a position to capture its first win in 2021.
It was a point Jaax mentioned in his postgame comments. “The second half, [Hutch] protected the ball a lot better,” he told The Kansan. “Hats off to them. We turned the ball over, so we flipped from the first to the second half.”
Nothing changes momentum quite like turnovers, and Newton — now tied for last in the AVCTL Division 1 standings — simply can’t afford to hand that to an opponent as it did Friday night.
Key stat: A fumble and an interception comprise the Railers’ two turnovers. And while the number is bad enough, tallying both in the final frame is the nail in the coffin.
As I’ve written after the past two games: Limit turnovers, finish drives, and keep your defense out of short fields. Once Newton can put these three things all together, the success will follow.
2 — Colby Gomez inconsistent, but it’s not all on him
Sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez completed less than half of his passes on Friday night, going 10-23 for 110 yards with a touchdown and interception. The Railers’ passer can certainly take part of the blame for this performance, but pinning it completely on him is absurd.
Don’t get me wrong — Gomez can scramble and extend plays at a relatively high level. However, there comes a point where it feels as though he’s having to do that far too often. Newton’s offensive line has been bent this season, but it seemed to have finally broke on Friday.
It’s clear what Gomez can do when he’s not under duress. In the season opener against Andover Central — the last time he truly had a consistent clean pocket — he was accurate, on time, and moved the ball efficiently. But when a team like Hutch is getting home by rushing only four, there’s a problem.
Key stat: Gomez finished with 11 carries for 25 yards. Sacks are counted against a player’s rushing stats. And as a reporter, I can guarantee there weren’t 11 designed QB keepers.
Gomez was able to — for the most part — make something out of nothing when the pocket collapsed. Keeping him upright and clean will need to be a point of emphasis for the Railers moving forward.
3 — Jake Schmidt records two catches
Midway through the third quarter, Newton senior wide receiver and Gomez’s go-to target, Jake Schmidt, went down with an injury after making a fantastic catch to move the chains. He had to be helped off the field, which is never a good sign.
Schmidt would later be spotted jogging up and down the Railers’ sideline, testing something in his lower body. I departed the stadium at the conclusion of the third quarter and wasn’t able to see if he returned to action.
Either way, keeping Schmidt a part of the offense’s distribution of the ball is crucial to the team’s success, and that simply wasn’t the case Friday night. If he’s good to go next week, it’ll be crucial to reestablish his presence.
Key stat: Schmidt finished with two catches for 20 yards — his lowest in both categories since week one. Whether this was caused by Gomez’s lack of time in the pocket, the desire to get Hulse going from the backfield, or a combination of both, the go-to target must stay involved.
Newton will travel south to square off with undefeated Maize South, which currently sits atop the AVCTL Division 1 standings. It’ll serve as an ideal ‘measuring stick’ game for the Railers, as signs of improvement will signal a young team slowly coming into its own.
Newton lost last year’s matchup 30-10.
Brett is a freelance reporter covering the 2021 Newton (KS) High School football team and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD (TX) 5A high school football. To stay updated, subscribe by completing the field above. Follow Brett on Twitter (@brettaesch) for up-to-the-minute coverage. Thanks for reading.