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RGR | Newton starts fast to pick up first win of 2021 over Goddard: Recap and takeaways
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GODDARD, Kan. — On Friday night, when Newton (1-5) sophomore quarterback Colby Gomez took the final kneel-down and the clock inside Lions Field expired on the fourth quarter, the Railers had officially done something for the first time since Nov. 23, 2020: Win a football game.
And not only did Newton win, it did it by doing something it hadn’t done thus far: Storm out of the gates quickly — and put the pressure on Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division 2 foe Goddard (0-6) to keep pace in the non-league contest. The Railers played at their own tempo and never trailed at any point.
The first touchdown of the night came just less than three minutes into the game, when Gomez took it with his legs from 10 yards out to give Newton an early 7-0 advantage. Four minutes later, with 5:22 left in the opening frame, he connected with junior wide receiver Isaac Klug for a 12-yard score.
On the ensuing Goddard possession, the Lions found their groove offensively with a 70-yard drive, capped off by a 26-yard touchdown scamper from running back Bo Bantz — which was their only trip to paydirt of the night. The score cut the Railers’ lead to 14-7 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
The scoring slowed in the second quarter, as the next points wouldn’t be recorded until the final 95 seconds of the first half, when Colin Hershberger knocked in a 37-yard field goal. Goddard then drove into field goal range on its next drive to tack on three more of its own. At the half, Newton led 17-10.
Then, just five minutes into the second half, disaster struck for the Railers as Gomez was flagged for intentional grounding in his own end zone while trying to avoid a sack. This cut Newton’s lead to 17-12, and gave Goddard the ball back with excellent field position.
The Railers’ defense stood tall, which set up their offense for what would be its most impressive touchdown of the night: A 56-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch on trickery from junior wide receiver Camden Carr to sophomore running back James Hulse, who broke tackles all the way to the end zone.
With 1:57 left in the third quarter, Newton led 24-12 — and held that lead until the final horn sounded, giving the Railers their first win of the 2021 season.
“This win means a lot to us,” Gomez (15-28, 87 yds, 1 TD) said after the game. “Especially with Salina South and [Haysville] Campus coming up — both teams that we beat last year. We feel like if we can win three straight going into the playoffs, we’ll be ready to win.”
“We have to take advantages of the opportunities we get,” Newton head coach Chris Jaax told Mark Schnabel of The Kansan. “This game, we took advantage of our opportunities. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes and found a way to win.”
Here are the takeaways from a solid all-around performance from the Railers.
1 — Defense saves the lead more than once
The biggest turning point of the game for Newton was mentioned by Jaax in his postgame comments. It wasn’t a touchdown or tricky offensive play that drew oohs-and-ahhs from the crowd. Instead, it was a crucial, game-turning stop in the red zone by its defense — which I wrote could be in for a big night.
Key stat: After forcing a safety in the early stages of the second half, Goddard cut Newton’s lead to just five, and took over for its ensuing possession at the Railers’ 30. History would’ve led most to believe points were certain for the Lions, but they weren’t. Instead, Newton forced a turnover on downs to preserve its lead.
Even better: That wasn’t the unit’s first big stop of the game. Halfway through the second quarter, Goddard was threatening with first-and-goal at the eight yard-line. But on second down, senior defensive back Andrew Barron saved the Railers’ lead and gave his offense the ball back with an interception.
“We came up with big plays in critical situations,” Jaax told The Kansan. “It was great. [Stopping Goddard after the safety] was a big play for us. They had gotten momentum. Their offense came out trying to score. We were able to keep executing after that. … I’m proud of the way the kids kept fighting.”
2 — Creative, turnover-free football
Offensively, Newton was explosive. It racked up 237 total yards and won the time of possession, spending over 26 minutes on offense to the Lions’ 20 minutes. Most importantly: It didn’t commit a single turnover — which allowed the unit to control the game’s pace and never play from behind.
Key stat: The way the Railers did this provided one of the strangest box score stat lines of the season: Camden Carr (yes, the junior wide receiver) led the team in passing — not Gomez. He was 2-for-2 for 103 yards and a touchdown, with both of those completions on trick plays to two different receivers.
One of those passes was the aforementioned touchdown to Hulse, and the other a deep strike down the sideline to fellow junior wide receiver Isaac Klug.
Carr told The Kansan of his pass to Hulse, “We’ve been practicing that a little bit … I got a little spiral on it. I tried to lead him, but it didn’t go that far. It was still a touchdown, so it felt pretty good.” On his pass to Klug: “[It] was a real bad throw. But he was so wide open.”
1 — Ground game never established
It’s hard to point out the glaring shortcoming of Newton’s offense after such a stat-stuffing performance, but any good football coach will tell you that there’s always an area to be improved upon. And for the Railers, it’s clear: The running game was never consistently present on Friday.
Key stat: Newton accumulated just 37 yards rushing on 35 total carries. That’s roughly 1.06 yards per attempt. Hulse had 15 of those for only 23 yards. It’s just the latest installment of another matchup in which the Railers were obviously trying to get the ground game going, but simply weren’t able to.
This had a considerable impact on the final score, as Newton had back-to-back first-half drives reach 4th-and-short near midfield. Jaax elected to punt both times. Had there been confidence in the rushing attack — from the guys up front to the backfield — I imagine a different choice would’ve been made.
Instead, the Railers allowed the Lions to hang around with a smaller deficit.
2 — Back-end caught out of position at times
For the first time this season, there was a clear flipping of the script on Newton’s defense. The front seven, which is notably inexperienced and has had its fair share of troubles, brought pressure with ease and was playing in Goddard’s backfield quite often. The secondary, however, struggled in spots.
Key stat: Lions quarterback Lake Hamilton completed six passes for 150 yards, which is 25 yards per completion. Goddard was able to stay in the game offensively with deep pass plays (as the stats reflect), typically with Hamilton throwing it up for grabs down the middle of the field.
And far too often, the Railers’ secondary would be completely out of position to make a play on the ball, allowing seemingly low-probability passes to turn into potentially momentum-shifting strikes. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, the unit was able to step up in the red zone when needed.
The lone bright spot for this unit was Jonah Remsburg, as the senior safety was repeatedly found making plays downfield from sideline-to-sideline.
Newton will look to build on this win and create momentum ahead of the playoffs when it hosts Salina South (1-5) in the first of two home games to end the regular season. The Cougars will be fresh off a 41-7 road loss to Hutchinson and looking to avenge last year’s loss to the Railers.
Newton won last year’s matchup 42-41.
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.