RGR | Newton heads to Derby for week 2 bout: Storylines, preview, and projection
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On Friday night, Newton will load up and head south to Derby, where they’ll square off with the top-ranked 6A football team in the state of Kansas. The Panthers — who are fresh off their sixth KSHSAA state championship in the last eight seasons — will be looking to defend their home turf in the first game for the newly renovated Panther Stadium.
It’s safe to say the Railers are aware of the daunting task that lies before them.
Here’s everything you need to know about this marquee matchup — including game information, storylines to watch, and a final preview plus CalPreps projection.
Location: Panther Stadium (Derby)
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Weather: 86 degrees. Clear skies. 0% chance of rain.
Spread (via CalPreps): Derby (-18)
A Newton victory? It’s been a while
To find the last meeting between Newton and Derby in which the Railers were victorious, you’d have to go back to 1989 — when they defeated the Panthers 21-14. Since 2014, the two programs have met five times, with Derby winning each outing by a combined score of 263-59.
Additionally, Newton head coach Chris Jaax is 0-3 against the Panthers.
While Derby has certainly dominated the history books, the fight the Railers put up a year ago shouldn’t go unnoticed. 31 of those aforementioned 59 points came in that 2020 meeting, with Newton only trailing by two at halftime. When the final whistle blew, the Panthers escaped with a 12-point win, 43-31.
The Railers’ motto for 2021, ‘Swing The Hammer’, will certainly be put to the test. As Jaax told me in our preseason conversation, “Those games [last season] were all decided by a single play near the end of regulation that had a make-or-break feel to them. And we just came up short.”
The question that’ll need to be answered is simple: can they do it against the most talented team in Kansas?
Defense helps the offense…
I might already sound like a broken record, but Newton’s defense will ultimately decide how Friday night’s game goes. It’ll have its hands full with Derby running back Dylan Edwards.
The junior rushed for just under 2,000 yards last season, and currently holds offers from an extensive list of Division 1 schools — including Kansas, Michigan State, West Virginia, and North Texas.
If the unit can keep Edwards contained and give its offense ample opportunities to put up points, the Railers could absolutely stick around and make things interesting. If they overperform and shut the Panthers offense down, Newton could find themselves in the driver’s seat. They can do this by:
Winning the turnover battle
Winning the field position battle
If Edwards runs wild, however, and Derby lights up the scoreboard, it’ll put a lot of pressure on a young offense to keep pace with a team of that talent level. Things could get ugly in a hurry.
…and the offense helps the defense
Sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez showed last week that he has what it takes to successfully conduct the Railers’ offense. Obviously, it’ll take more than six points to come away with a win over the Panthers. At the same time, though, Newton should avoid a shootout at all costs.
The name of the game will be simple for this unit:
Take care of the ball; win the turnover battle
Keep the ball; win the time of possession
Despite its extensive history of quick drives and lots of points, there’s a clear path to victory for the Railers that I would imagine is being discussed strenuously amongst the coaching staff. Establish Kenyon Forest’s presence in the run game, execute play-action passes, and finish long, time-consuming drives.
If both sides of the ball can assist each other in ensuring these goals are achieved, a fun bus ride home could be in store for Newton. If a shootout ensues and defenses becomes nonexistent, there’s — realistically speaking — little chance that the Railers simply outscore Derby.
In order for Newton to keep up with (and potentially defeat) Derby, they’ll have to scrap, claw, and do all the ‘little things’ right. The margin for error will be extremely slim — hence why the Panthers enter as 18-point favorites.
Essentially, the game’s direction will be decided in the first quarter. And it’ll be up to Jaax’s squad to establish and maintain the tempo it wants to work at for the night.
If Derby gets ahold of the game’s pace as it’s so used to doing, the Panthers will undoubtedly put the throttle down and keep it there — making it tough for Newton to get off the mat.
CalPreps Projection: Derby 38, Newton 20
I’ll be on-site for the first half of this game, but will have to leave at halftime due to my obligations as a Bethel College student-athlete. Updates will be provided via Twitter.
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.