Rams take on tradition

The Covington News - - Sports - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

It’s been two weeks since New­ton last stepped un­der the lights of a Fri­day night football game, and the Rams have spent each of those days hard at work.

The most needed of that work, though, has been to heal as New­ton has been play­ing through sev­eral key in­juries, in­clud­ing a start­ing run­ning back and offensive line­men, in­clud­ing the cen­ter.

Those in­juries have helped lead to shutouts in each of New­ton’s first two games, a 32- 0 loss to East­side and 31- 0 loss at Lown­des, as the Rams look to avoid a third Fri­day at Val­dosta.

The Rams will be both helped and hurt in their cause to im­prove their offensive play Fri­day, start­ing with the re­turn of offensive line­man to bet­ter health.

“We’re go­ing to get a cou­ple of kids back ( and oth­ers just haven’t been play­ing at 100 per­cent),” New­ton coach Cortez Allen said. “We can’t af­ford to sit back and make ex­cuses, we have to have our kids step up.”

Among those step­ping up has been James Harde­man, who gets his big­gest chance of the sea­son at Baze­moreHy­der Sta­dium Fri­day. With start­ing run­ning back Dar­ius Dean out with an in­jury, Harde- man has been get­ting more play­ing time at the po­si­tion each week, and will now be trusted with the start­ing role.

“He’s shown us an ex­plo­sive­ness that we have not seen in our run­ning backs,” Allen said. “This week will be his de­but as the start­ing back.”

The 6- foot, 215- pound run­ning back will bring a pow­er­ful frame and solid speed to the po­si­tion, trans­fer­ring to run­ning back from out­side line­backer.

“We’re re­ally ex­cited about the way he’s play­ing right now,” Allen said. “He’s go­ing to play a lit­tle less snaps on de­fense and fo­cus much more on of­fense.”

Along with get­ting play­ers back closer to 100- per­cent health and giv­ing Harde­man more play­ing time, New­ton will also try to pro­vide a boost to its of­fense with a slight shift in the way its offensive line plays. Over the bye week the Rams have tweaked the way its line does things, go­ing from more of a zone game to a lit­tle more of a power- run­ning at­tack. While the Rams are work­ing to­ward fi­nally get­ting on the score­board, try­ing to keep them from get­ting go­ing will not only be Val­dosta, but also all that comes with it.

The Wild­cats are the na­tion’s most win­ningest high school football pro­gram, play­ing in front of up to 11,000 fans in a col­lege- wor­thy sta­dium.

“They know that Val­dosta is a sto­ried pro­gram in the state of Ge­or­gia,” Allen said. “This sum­mer when we went over the names on the sched­ule we con­stantly talked to them about get­ting ready for the Val­dosta and Lown­des games.”

The Rams may have lost in their last out­ing, at Lown­des, but held the state’s fourth- ranked team to its fewest point to­tal of the year, and got used to play­ing in front of larger South Ge­or­gia crowds.

“The kids played like I’ve never seen them play be­fore with their in­ten­sity level,” Allen said. “We’re at a point where we un­der­stand all vic­to­ries this sea­son won’t nec­es­sar­ily show up in the win- loss col­umn.”

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