Discover more from Brett Esch
RGR | Maize dismantles Newton 54-10 as turnovers plague Railers: Recap and two takeaways
NOTE: If you’d like to receive email notifications of new stories from only this section — as opposed to the entire publication — or if you’d like to stop receiving email notifications of new stories from this section, this can be managed (as a subscriber) by visiting the ‘My Account’ page on baesch.substack.com.
NEWTON, Kan. — As the rain fell on Fischer Field Stadium, Maize (3-0) junior quarterback and no. 8 passer in the nation Avery Johnson scored six touchdowns — three through the air and three with his legs — as the Eagles cruised to a 54-10 blowout of Newton (0-3) on Friday night.
In a perfect summary of what took place in the Railers’ home opener, head coach Chris Jaax told Mark Schnabel of The Kansan, “We struggled with a lot of things … We can do a lot better than that. We have to get better as the season goes on. … As coaches, we have to make sure we put [our players] in better situations.”
Unavailable for Newton was senior running back Kenyon Forest, who had season-ending surgery following the team’s week two loss to Derby. In his place was a split workload between sophomore James Hulse (15 car, 87 yds) and junior Isaac Klug (11 car, 44 yds). While Forest’s absence played a prominent role in the Railers’ defeat, the team’s issues stretched far beyond its offensive ground game.
Here are two takeaways from a game Newton will put in its rearview mirror rather swiftly:
Colby Gomez shows growing pains; Railers offense in search of consistency
Prior to Friday’s loss, Newton sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez (8-21, 104 yds, 4 car, -1 yds) was yet to throw an interception. By the end of the first quarter, he’d thrown two on back-to-back possessions on the Railers’ own end of the field, which led to a quick 10-0 advantage for Maize heading into the second quarter.
And before Gomez was able to find senior wide receiver Jake Schmidt for Newton’s lone touchdown of the night following a big kickoff return from senior defensive back Luke Hirsh (remember the key to jumpstarting the Railers’ offense?), the Eagles had put up 27 unanswered points — courtesy of Newton’s inability to sustain a drive.
Despite finishing with 319 total yards, Newton’s entire offensive unit looked utterly dysfunctional from the opening kickoff. Four turnovers is just the surface of it — breakdowns in protection forcing Gomez to abandon the pocket prematurely and untimely penalties when it finally looked like the unit had life were the deeper, more deflating issues.
Only once Maize rotated its reserves into the game were the Railers able to string together a few lengthy drives. Newton’s offense beat itself on Friday night and didn’t do its defense — which was already up against its toughest assignment of the season — any favors.
It’ll be a good lesson to learn from moving forward as these young players progress and come into their own. The key now, as Jaax said postgame, for Gomez and the offense as a whole, is showing improvement next week. That’s the only way to turn a game like this one was into a positive.
Despite up-and-down performance, defense undoubtedly Newton’s backbone
In a complete reversal of preseason expectations, the Railers’ defense has proven itself as the team’s backbone through three weeks of play. Friday night dealt a tough hand for the unit, facing one of the best passers in the country while being forced onto the field far more than usual due to offensive and special teams turnovers.
Allowing 54 points is never a good thing, sure, but the defense had its fair share of bright moments throughout the night. These were the most notable, as they came in the first quarter when the game was still competitive:
Starting on Newton’s 24 after a turnover, the Railers were able to intercept a Johnson pass to the goal line.
Following another turnover that set the Eagles up at Newton’s 23, the Railers sacked Johnson on first down and forced a field goal attempt.
The unit still gave up some big plays, including an 84-yard touchdown pass. But in a loss like this one, finding the ‘small victories’ is what can help create at least some level of momentum heading into the next game. If this defense can continue to generate big stands in tough field position situations, it’ll keep games competitive for Newton and allow the offense a chance to respond.
Looking ahead, the Railers will host its homecoming matchup with Hutchinson. Both teams enter the contest winless in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1 play. It’ll be Newton’s best chance at putting a tally in the win column so far this season.
The Railers lost last year’s matchup 54-42.
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.