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RGR | Newton dominated in 31-10 rout by Campus: Recap and takeaways
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NEWTON, Kan. — With under six minutes left in the game, the Newton (2-6) offense took the field trailing Haysville Campus (1-7) by 21, looking to keep some form of hope for an improbable comeback intact.
On the second play of the drive, sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez hit junior H-Back Ryan Ruggiero for an 82-yard touchdown… only to be called back by an illegal forward pass penalty.
On a senior night where almost nothing went right for the Railers, this sequence perfectly encapsulated just how far south things had gone for a team that had a three-game winning streak on its mind. Instead, it’ll head into the first round of the KSHSAA 5A state playoffs fresh off its worst performance of 2021 — but that’s not the worst part.
Newton found itself decimated on the defensive line with injuries, as junior Ricky Parga and sophomore Jackson Marlar didn’t suit up. It also had a key contributor on offense banged up during the game: Junior wide receiver Camden Carr had to be helped off the field after suffering a lower-body injury, potentially losing him for next week’s postseason matchup.
In short, things started bad and only got worse for the Railers on Friday night, who now must turn their attention to a first-round rematch with Maize.
Campus scored first on its opening drive after forcing a turnover on downs by Newton — which elected to go for it on 4th-and-9 — as Barrett Roads punched it in from one yard out with 3:53 left to go in the first quarter. Just over two minutes later, with 1:08 on the clock, Gomez found Ruggiero for the Railers’ lone trip to the end zone to knot things up at seven.
With 9:54 left in the second quarter, Colts quarterback Brody Johnson hit wide receiver Jaron Dodson down the middle of the field off play-action for 30 yards and the team’s only touchdown pass of the night to regain the lead, 14-7.The next points wouldn’t come until there was just 38 seconds left in the half, when Newton kicker Colin Hershberger nailed a 39-yard field goal.
At the break, the Railers trailed 14-10.
Campus got the scoring started once again in the third quarter when Aiden Hess knocked in a 23-yard field goal with 5:45 left to extend the Colts’ lead to 17-10. On the ensuing Newton offensive possession, with 1:09 left to go, disaster struck: After working it down to Campus’ 29 yard-line, Colts safety Christian Sicard picked off Gomez and took it 77 yards untouched to paydirt.
When the horn sounded to end the period, Campus led 24-10.
Running back Garrett Denning would tack on one final touchdown in the fourth quarter with 6:47 on the clock to put the game on ice for the Colts. And when it was all said and done, Campus had tallied its first win of the season and in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1 play, defeating the Railers 31-10.
“We had a lot of injuries and things like that,” Newton head coach Chris Jaax told Mark Schnabel of The Kansan. “The kids fought hard. They just came up short. Campus made some good plays. We had some key guys out interior-wise. … We knew [Campus’] record didn’t speak for who they were.”
Gomez finished with 144 yards passing, a touchdown, and an interception. Ruggiero led the Railers in receiving, tallying four receptions for 89 yards. Sophomore running back James Hulse had 58 yards on 13 carries.
Newton recorded just eight first downs while the Colts racked up 17. Campus had the ball for 13 minutes longer than the Railers — and also never punted.
Here are both the positive and negative takeaways from a game Newton will try (and certainly needs) to erase from its memory as quickly as possible:
1. Colin Hershberger — aka ‘Ole Reliable’
One of the most consistent areas of Newton’s team this season has been its kicking game. Junior Colin Hershberger — who also stars on the Railers’ soccer squad — had another impressive outing in all aspects of his game: Kickoffs, punts, and field goals.
Key stat: Hershberger went 1-1 on field goals, connecting from 39 yards out. On three punts, he averaged a relatively high 44.3 yards per punt, including one that flipped the field and pinned Campus at its own 22 and another that moved the ball from the Railers’ own 22 to the Colts’ 30.
While easily overlooked, the privilege of a reliable kicking game is something that’s tough to come by in high school (and recently even college and professional) football. Hershberger has entrenched himself as a valuable asset for this Newton team — and it’s surely grateful to have him back for 2022.
2. Ruggiero produces despite gloomy night for Newton offense
Junior Ryan Ruggiero has quietly been one of Gomez’s favorite targets this season, and last night confirmed this as the 5-foot-10 H-Back racked up yardage while also being the only Railer to find the end zone. He was — in a similar fashion to Hershberger — the unit’s ‘Ole Reliable’.
Key stat: Ruggiero led Newton in receiving with 89 yards on four receptions. He would’ve had 82 more yards and another score had the aforementioned touchdown pass not been flagged for an illegal forward pass. Still, it was a remarkable performance in the box score for a guy playing next to a very talented receiving corps.
It’s safe to say that with an injury to sophomore wide receiver Keon Edwards, and now one to Camden Carr — who was emerging as the team’s No. 1 receiver, Ruggiero will have a larger role than he’s ever taken on before when the Railers hit the road for a rematch with Maize next week.
1. Defense wants no part of Campus offense
To put it bluntly, the Newton defense had arguably its most embarrassing performance of the season on Friday night, as Campus tallied 335 yards of offense with 277 of those on the ground. It also allowed two completions on three pass attempts, with one of those being a 30-yard touchdown strike.
Key stat: What’s worse? The Colts finished with a whopping 5.3 yards per carry. They gashed the Railers’ front seven at will — and it was painfully obvious to all those spectating. Campus was clearly, visibly, and obviously more physical than Newton even wanted to be, and the box score reflects it.
When the Railers faced the flexbone earlier this season against Hutchinson, I wrote about how physical their defense was that night. This time, it was the exact opposite — a shell of itself. And even if they weren’t at full strength, it wasn’t a talent issue. It was simply a matter of want-to. And that’s concerning.
2. Colby Gomez panics in 2nd half
Throwing a pick-six is bad for any quarterback. Responding the way Gomez did? That’s what makes it worse. For the first time this season, the young passer seemed frantic and out of sorts behind center after his team fell behind by two scores in the third quarter. It’s unusual, which makes it a notable takeaway that’s worth mentioning.
Key stat: After an impressive first half, Gomez would end up finishing the game 7-for-20 — a completion rate of 35 percent. That’s his lowest mark of the season. While everything around him was obviously unraveling, moments like those call for him to bounce back from a mistake like that. He didn’t.
Gomez is a good quarterback. For this to only be his first time showing signs of inexperience as a sophomore is quite the testament to just how steady-handed he’s been thus far. I don’t doubt that Newton is in good hands with him — as long as moments like these don’t become routine.
The Railers will travel to K.T. Woodman Stadium on Friday, Oct. 29 for a date with Maize in the first round of the KSHSAA 5A state playoffs. It’s a rematch of AVCTL-I action from earlier this season, when the league runner-up Eagles defeated Newton 54-10 at on the road. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.
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.