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RGR | Derby uses big second half to escape Newton upset, 49-20: Recap and analysis
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DERBY — When the horn sounded for halftime between Newton (3-5) and 6A’s fourth-ranked Derby (6-2) on Friday night at Panther Stadium in Derby, the Panther faithful simply couldn’t believe what the scoreboard read: Newton 20, Derby 14.
In the second half, however, their nerves were quickly calmed. The defending state runner-ups took care of business on their Senior Night over the next 24 minutes, outscoring the Railers 35-0 en route to a 49-20 victory that kept their winning streak over the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1 foe since 1989 alive.
“We’ve just gotta put a whole football game together,” Newton head coach Greg Slade said. “We didn't do that in the second half. We knew [Derby] was good. Our kids played hard and I told them after the game that I'll take them into battle any day.”
Derby got the ball to open the night and scored on a quarterback keeper by Brock Zerger to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive to take an early 7-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first quarter. The Railers responded in a flash courtesy of a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Camden Carr.
Just two minutes later, after forcing a fumble on the ensuing Panther possession, Newton quarterback Colby Gomez punched it in with a run of his own to give his team the lead, 13-7. Derby running back and Notre Dame pledge Dylan Edwards would bring the Panthers back on top, 14-13, with a 48-yard scamper just a minute after that.
Then, the Railers proceeded to conduct an 18-play, 10-minute drive that ended with another Gomez scoring plunge to put Newton ahead of Derby by six. The Railer defense followed it up by forcing a turnover on downs to end the first half.
From there, back-to-back empty drives by Newton to open the third quarter accompanied by a flurry of touchdown runs by Zerger and Edwards — and miscues by the Railers — allowed the Panthers to get back on top and eventually cruise to a 29-point win to end the 2022 regular season.
It was an honorable showing by Slade’s group, but it just couldn’t find an answer to the explosive Derby backfield duo.
With the result, Newton falls to 3-5 while the Panthers improve to 6-2. Edwards led all rushers with 295 yards and four touchdowns, followed by Zerger with 226 yards and two touchdowns. Gomez led the Railers in rushing with 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Newton couldn’t hold on to the would-be miracle in the third quarter.
The key play you likely forgot:
With under two minutes left in the third quarter, the Newton offense faced fourth-and-one at the Derby 31-yard line, trailing 28-20. The Railers had been one failed conversion short of perfect on fourth downs and lined up for a quarterback sneak that would’ve very likely continued the drive. Instead, Newton was flagged for a false start and was forced to retreat five yards. The Railers then attempted a pass which fell incomplete, and the Panthers went on to score just two minutes later, effectively ending any chance at a Newton upset.
The turning point:
Newton received the opening second-half kickoff and on the second play of the initial drive attempted an out-and-up with the outside receiver in an attempt for a big play. Derby didn’t bite, instead forcing an incompletion that put the Railers in a third-and-long situation — something they hadn’t faced all night. Newton was unable to convert, thus paving the way for the Panthers to retake the lead and keep it for the rest of the contest.
It’s much easier said than done for an offense to play ball control and limit the opposition’s time of possession — it requires minimal penalties, staying ahead of the chains, and ball security. However, Newton executed that game plan to perfection in the first half, holding Derby to just one second-quarter possession. This gave the Railer defense ample time to rest and adjust, and the results showed in the form of a turnover on downs by the Panthers to maintain the Newton lead at halftime.
Gomez continues to evolve as a runner for Newton and has increasingly become more confident and comfortable as a threat with his legs from the backfield. He’s also been able to retain his accurate throwing ability, converting a handful of second and third downs through the air to keep drives alive in crucial spots. This is an exciting development ahead of both the playoffs and the quarterback’s senior year.
The area of concern:
The Newton defense, although vastly improved from the earlier weeks of the season, seemed troubled with open-field tackling and pursuit angles when attempting to take down Derby ball carriers. Granted, it’s difficult for any defense in Kansas to defend Zerger and Edwards, but giving up 30-plus yard runs on seemingly every other play isn’t complimentary football for an offense that wants to slow the game down. Preventing big plays is the next step for this unit.
Full offensive stats:
To see full offensive stats from this game, click/tap the button below.
Newton is once again on the road next week, this time to open the 5A West playoffs against fifth-seeded Bishop Carroll. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Bishop Carroll Family Stadium. The Golden Eagles are 6-2 and clinched the GWAL title over Wichita East in week eight.