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RGR | Newton eyes 2nd straight win in duel with Salina South: Storylines, preview, and projection
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Last Friday, Newton captured its first win of the 2021 season when it defeated Goddard 24-12 on the road. With it, a new sense of hope surrounds the team as it prepares to host Salina South, which owns the same 1-5 record as the Railers, in the first of two home games to end the regular season.
The Cougars are currently just ahead of Newton in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division 1 standings with a 1-4 league record. Their lone win came against winless Haysville Campus, and they’ll roll into Friday’s game fresh off a 41-7 blowout loss to Hutchinson. It’s the ideal matchup for the Railers as they look to start a winning streak ahead of the KSHSAA 5A playoffs.
“[That] win [over Goddard] means a lot to us,” sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez noted. “Especially with Salina South and Haysville Campus coming up, both who we beat last year. Going into those with great energy … we feel like if we can win three straight going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready to win.”
Here’s all the information you’ll need for this week’s crucial matchup — which presents an opportunity for Newton to climb out of tied-for-last place in the AVCTL-I with the playoff picture taking shape. This includes game details, storylines to watch, and a final preview plus CalPreps projection.
Location: Fischer Field Stadium (Newton)
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Weather: 50 degrees. Clear skies. 0% chance of rain.
Spread (via CalPreps): Salina South (-7)
2020 result: Newton won, 42-41
1. What this game means to Newton
Newton and Salina South have seen each other quite often. They’re no strangers, as this week’s matchup will be the 10th between the two schools on the gridiron since 2010. In the previous nine meetings — which occurred every season save 2016 and 2017 — the Cougars are 8-1, outscoring the Railers 338-167 in their eight-straight victories in the series.
In 2020, Newton was able to tally its first win over Salina South in over a decade in a 42-41 thriller. Now, the two teams are on identical paths, clawing to keep themselves out of the cellar of the AVCTL-I. The Cougars have been struggling mightily thus far, being outscored by an average of 36 points in their losses — which includes a 77-7 throttling from Derby on Sept. 24.
Key stat: The best-case scenario for the Railers is a 3-5 district record finish, which would position themselves for a much more favorable postseason matchup — as opposed to a potential rematch with Maize or a date with Kapaun Mt. Carmel. And the only way to make that happen is with two-straight home wins over the next two weeks, starting with Salina South.
2. Chance for rushing attack to emerge
Salina South’s primary defensive struggle in 2021 has been stopping the run. Conversely, Newton’s offense has tried to no avail since senior running back Kenyon Forest’s season-ending injury to establish its presence on the ground. In that span, sophomore James Hulse has assumed the role of lead back in a Railer offense that has gradually seen itself become one-dimensional.
Key stat: This week presents an opportunity to change that, as the Cougars yielded 291 rushing yards to Hutchinson a week ago after allowing 445 (!!!) to Maize the week prior. Newton head coach Chris Jaax has repeatedly spoke on the importance of his team capitalizing on opportunities, and this one — simply put — is golden.
With playoff buzz in the air, the Railers would happily welcome the other half of their offense back, because a respectable running game begets play-action, which begets big plays, which begets more points — something Newton has struggled to produce. Otherwise, it’ll be easy to defend, which might fly against teams like Goddard… but not Kapaun Mt. Carmel.
3. Defense needs a solid follow-up
While its defense leaves a lot to be desired, Salina South’s offense has shown flashes more than every-now-and-then. It racked up 416 total yards in its loss to Maize, including quarterback Weston Fries’ three-touchdown performance with 230 yards passing. Newton’s secondary must be mindful of explosive plays, which it allowed far too often against Goddard a week ago.
Key stat: The Cougars failed to put up 40-plus points only twice in their past nine meetings with the Railers. This offense has had its way with Newton’s defense, but a surging front and veteran-led secondary might be the recipe for slowing Salina South’s dominance on this side of the ball. Otherwise, a shootout becomes possible — and the Railers aren’t built for that.
Preview and projection
Some could argue that this game — given its impact on playoff seeding and the AVCTL-I standings — is Newton’s biggest of the season. That’s far from an inaccurate judgement. In fact, it’s spot on.
With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that Jaax and the entire Newton coaching staff is hoping this matchup follows the same blueprint as its win over Goddard: No turnovers, win the time of possession and trust that a bend-but-don’t-break defense makes the big stops when it has to.
It’s not the style of play Railers fans have gotten accustomed to over the years, but it worked to the tune of their first victory of the year. Salina South will enter Friday night’s contest as seven-point favorites — which is a bit too heavy, if you ask me.
CalPreps Projection: Salina South 31, Newton 24
Other AVCTL-I action
No. 1 Derby (-14) at No. 2 Maize
No. 3 Maize South at [5A-West No. 1] Hays (-1)
No. 4 Hutch (-14) at No. 7 Haysville Campus
5A-West playoff watch
Potential Newton first-round matchups are bolded.
No. 3 Kapaun Mt. Carmel (-36) at No. 12 Liberal
Wichita West at No. 6 Bishop Carroll (-43)
No. 7 Wichita Northwest (-42) at Wichita South
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.