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RGR | Newton's season ends in first-round loss to Maize: Recap, takeaways, and a 'thank you'
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MAIZE, Kan. — When opponents do their homework and craft their scouting reports on Maize (7-2), they typically come to a shared conclusion: Containing quarterback Avery Johnson will be the key to victory.
And on Friday night at K.T. Woodman Stadium in the opening round of the KSHSAA 5A-West playoffs, Newton (2-7) — statistically — did just that.
What it didn’t do? Stop running back Daeshaun Carter.
Carter finished with 124 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. His longest run was a 66-yard house call in which he bounced off numerous Railer defenders en route to paydirt. He had his way with the Newton defense, carrying the rock for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt.
The Eagles got their scoring started early, as Carter found the end zone from three yards out on the opening drive. Following an interception by Newton quarterback Colby Gomez on the ensuing possession, the Eagles tacked on a field goal to make it 10-0 — and it stayed that way going into the next frame.
After trading punts to open the second quarter, Johnson called his own number for an 11-yard score to put Maize up 17-0 less than four minutes into the period. And when the Eagles’ offense took the field again after a three-and-out from the Railers, it only needed one play to extend its lead: The previously noted 66-yard run from Carter.
Newton’s final drive of the half ended with a missed 24-yard field goal from Collin Hershberger. At the break, Maize led the Railers 25-0.
In the second half, Newton went with a unique face in the backfield: Senior defensive back Luke Hirsh got the bulk of the carries, and scored the Railers’ lone touchdown of the night with 19 seconds left in the third quarter — after blocking an Eagles field goal attempt — to cut the Maize’s lead to 25-7.
It’s the closest Newton would get the rest of the night, as the Eagles tacked on two more touchdowns — one from backup running back Tayveon Williams from 48 yards out and the other a two-yard scamper by Carter. After a safety by the Maize punter while kneeling to catch a low snap, the scoring was over.
When the final horn sounded, the Railers’ season had come to an end, 39-9.
“Hats off to Maize,” Newton head coach Chris Jaax told Mark Schnabel of The Kansan. “They made some big plays. … We came out and played better in the second half. That’s a sign of these kids, what kind of people they are.”
Senior wide receiver Jake Schmidt had a career night, recording seven catches for 146 yards. Hirsh led Newton in rushing with 69 yards on 16 attempts. Gomez finished 16-for-30 for 217 yards and an interception.
Instead of the typical positives/negatives, here’s the one thing we saw tonight that should give the Newton faithful hope for better days ahead:
Newton shows fight until the end
Just a week after being physically dominated on all levels against a winless Haysville Campus squad, Newton’s defense visibly came with a different mindset, making life a little more difficult than the Maize offense would’ve liked. And despite how the box score looks, it helped keep the game relatively within reach through the first three quarters.
Offensively, the Railers were able to occasionally find their footing, but things would unravel for one reason or another in the late stages of drives. This isn’t uncommon, as finishing possessions with points is a weakness for this unit that’s been acknowledged by coaches and spectators alike. It’s one of many signs of a young, inexperienced team that will work itself out over time.
The bottom line is simple: There was never a moment in this game where it felt like Newton had ‘packed it in’ or ‘laid down’. In fact, by the way its players were playing, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was a 30-point game in the fourth quarter without looking at the scoreboard. It’s a testament to how far this underclassman-filled roster has come — and that’s huge.
So while this season didn’t go how any Railer fans (or beat writers such as myself) had hoped, it’s important to note a few things:
Newton might’ve played the toughest schedule in Kansas high school football. Derby, Maize, Maize South, Andover Central, and even Hutchinson — which gave Bishop Carroll all it could handle on Friday night — are quality opponents that’ll help a young team moving forward.
I’ve watched a lot of high school football, and Newton might be one of the most fundamentally sound teams I’ve seen at this level. It’s rare to see it miss tackles or drop open passes. This will pay off tremendously as the other parts of the team’s game continues to develop.
The pieces are there for a relatively successful 2022 campaign. The key to bringing it all together will be harnessing consistency across the roster. Experience against the aforementioned teams will aid in that area, especially at quarterback as Gomez has two more years to go.
“We fought a lot of adversity this season,” Jaax told The Kansan. “We had injuries. We had COVID. The kids kept fighting and found a way to win a couple of game. They never gave up.”
“We have a lot of young kids. … They recognize there’s a lot of potential there.”
Newton finishes the 2021 season with a record of 2-7. Maize advances to the second round of the KSHSAA 5A-West playoffs where it’ll face Bishop Carroll.
N — C. Gomez: 16-30, 217 yds, INT
N — C. Carr: 1-1, 22 yds
N — L. Hirsh: 0-1, INT
M — A. Johnson: 4-10, 95 yds
N — L. Hirsh: 16 car, 69 yds, TD
N — J. Hulse: 9 car, 18 yds
N — C. Carr: 1 car, 9 yds
N — C. Gomez: 10 car, 3 yds
N — I. Klug: 1 car, 1 yd
M — D. Carter: 17 car, 124 yds, 3 TD
M — A. Johnson: 7 car, 88 yds, TD
M — T. Williams: 6 car, 81 yds, TD
M — J. Stephens: 1 car, 22 yds
N — J. Schmidt: 7 rec, 146 yds
N — R. Ruggerio: 4 rec, 29 yds
N — J. Hulse: 2 rec, 27 yds
N — C. Carr: 2 rec, 25 yds
N — L. Hirsh: 1 rec, 10 yds
N — I. Klug, 1 rec, 2 yds
M — L. Helm: 1 rec, 65 yds
M — A. Doty: 2 rec, 21 yds
M — B. Cohoon: 1 rec, 9 yds
N — Passing: 239 yds, Rushing: 96 yds, Total: 335 yds
M — Passing: 95 yds, Rushing: 303 yds, Total: 398 yds
Thank you, Railer Family
With the postgame story out of the way, it’s time for a personal note. To the Railer Family, including players, coaches, administrators, and parents:
All of the kind messages and engagements on social media and with my stories mean more to me than you realize. Covering this team has been nothing short of a blessing, and one that I truly believe will continue to bless me moving forward.
And wherever my journey in sportswriting takes me, I’ll always know where it began: The 2021 Newton High School football team.
With that being said, I sincerely hope you choose to follow my next venture, where I’ll be reporting on Prep and JUCO sports for the Butler County Times-Gazette. Without you, this opportunity never presents itself.
And for that, I say: Thank you, Newton.
Brett was formerly a freelance reporter covering the 2021 Newton (KS) High School football team and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD (TX) 5A high school football. Thanks for reading.