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RGR | Newton looks to get back on track in homecoming bout with Hutch: Storylines, preview, and projection
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When Newton and Hutchinson take the field on Friday night for the Railers’ homecoming game at Fischer Field Stadium, both will be looking to do something for the first time this season: Win an Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division 1 contest.
A victory for Newton would go a long way in harnessing momentum after a 54-10 blowout loss at the hands of current league-leader Maize a week ago. Conversely, Hutch travels east fresh off a 28-14 loss to Maize South.
All of these factors are certain to create a highly competitive, meaningful game for both sides — as well as a thrilling environment for those spectating. By the time the final horn sounds on Friday, one of these teams will potentially find themselves alone in last place in the AVCTL. The other will be right back in the mix at the halfway point of the season.
Here’s all the information you’ll need for this week’s matchup — including game details, storylines to watch, and a final preview plus CalPreps projection.
Location: Fischer Field Stadium (Newton)
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Weather: 72 degrees. Mostly clear skies. 0% chance of rain.
Spread (via CalPreps): Hutchinson (-18)
2020 result: Hutchinson won both meetings, 54-42; 46-41
1 — Third time’s a charm
Friday night will be the third time in the past calendar year that Newton and Hutch play football against each other. The two squads faced off twice in 2020 — once in the regular season and once in the postseason. Both were close, back-and-forth affairs that saw the Railers on the wrong side of the final score, losing by 12 and 5 points respectively.
Prior to those meetings, Newton was 2-8 against the Salthawks dating back to 2010, when the schools were realigned back together. The Railers’ two lone victories came in 2018 (42-35) and 2019 (24-21).
Key stat: These teams have rarely failed to light up the scoreboard when they’re on the field together. The past five matchups have averaged 71 total points between the two offenses.
The lowest-scoring affair in that span was the aforementioned 2019 contest.
2 — Win the trenches, win the game
Ahead of last week’s duel with Maize, I wrote about the importance of Newton’s secondary against one of the best passing attacks in the AVCTL. This week, it’s an entirely new focus: The Railers’ front seven beating the Salthawks’ flexbone (commonly known as triple-option) attack in the trenches.
As a self-proclaimed flexbone aficionado myself — having played in the offense for the past five years — I have a good understanding of how Hutch will approach this game, which is the same way it approaches every game. It’ll look to establish dominance at the line of scrimmage, control the time of possession to keep the Railers’ offense off the field, and play a physical brand of football.
Key stat: Newton’s defensive struggles against the run are no secret. The unit yielded 512 and 215 rushing yards the past two weeks to Derby and Maize, respectively. The Salthawks rushed for over 300 yards in its lone win over Valley Center in week one.
Hutch hasn’t shown the ability to stop Newton’s offense in the past, so a stout defensive performance for the Railers just might do the trick this time around.
3 — Ideal setting for a Colby Gomez bounce back
Almost every young quarterback has their ‘coming out’ game — the night where they take over and make their presence felt on a bigger stage. Newton sophomore passer Colby Gomez struggled last week after a solid start to the season, throwing three interceptions and being replaced in the third quarter.
However, the Railers’ offense could find much more success than it has so far when it lines up against Hutch’s defense on Friday. The Salthawks’ struggles, the homecoming atmosphere, the ‘must-win’ feel — it all has the makings of a big game from Gomez. And that’s exactly what Newton needs to revitalize its season.
Key stat: Prior to senior running back Kenyon Forest’s season-ending surgery, Gomez threw zero interceptions through his team’s first two outings. In the first game without Forest, he threw three. Coincidence? Nope.
The presence of a running game is crucial to the Railers’ RPO attack. Junior Isaac Klug and sophomore James Hulse filled the role sufficiently, which should restore balance to the offense with a full week of preparation.
Expect a more comfortable Gomez conducting the offense this week.
Preview and projection
This game could go one of two ways: Either Newton controls the line of scrimmage defensively and Gomez returns to form and puts up points to win a close one, or Hutch gets its way with the Railers’ run defense and grinds out the front seven on its way to a victory.
If the former happens, it would be an excellent momentum builder heading into another winnable game against Maize South. If the latter occurs, the downhill skid that ensues the following weeks could be ugly — especially if it’s in blowout fashion, because there’s certainly a sense that Newton must be (at the very least) competitive with Hutch.
It’s do-or-die time for the Railers, and they’ll have to play a clean game — no turnovers, costly penalties, or significant injuries — to hope for a postseason berth intact.
CalPreps Projection: Hutchinson 35, Newton 17
I’ll be on-site for this game and providing live updates via Twitter until 8:50 p.m. — which is when I’ll have to depart due to my obligations as a Bethel College student-athlete. I’ll return to the stadium as soon as possible.
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.