But when the two teams get on the field, that all goes out the window. This is the reason why I hesitantly picked Newton as a three score favorite in this game.
My head was telling me that the Rams had too much firepower — too much strength for the Eagles to contend with. But my heart was reminding me that anything goes in rivalry games.
Which is why, beyond the rivalry emotions of it, Newton’s romp over Eastside was a huge statement victory. Regardless of numbers or size, Eastside is always — always — a well-coached, disciplined and skilled football team.
Remember, just a week ago this same Eastside squad dismantled a 2016 playoff team and region foe 50-6 in the opener. I also believe that once these Eagles fall back into its Class AAAA competition context, you’ll see that coach Troy Hoff probably has another playoff team on his hands.
But the way Newton manhandled an Eastside front that includes South Carolina commit and three-star prospect, Lamarius Benson, is just a sign post that this Rams bunch may be the most equipped team in at least the last five or six years to make a run at a region crown and more.
When you watch them, you get the feeling that if they don’t turn the ball over and take themselves out of games with penalties, the only team that can really beat Newton is Newton.
Make no mistake. That Eastside squad that got beat Saturday is not a bad football team by any stretch. It just may be that Newton is just that good this year. And bigger games loom that will test this theory. Heritage on the road. Archer and Grayson at home. If Newton loses games like those, what happened Friday night won’t mean as much as far as the bigger picture goes which is challenging for a state championship.
But from the local per- spective, Newton-Eastside will always be a big deal for current and past Rams and Eagles. And this time…this year, Banks got the best of the battle. But it wasn’t just about him. That much was clear when he began to call the roll of previous Rams who didn’t get to taste victory in this rivalry.
“This is not just for the players on this team,” Banks said. “This is for J.J. (Holloman), for Jaquan (Henderson), Toyus Avery, Steven Montac. It’s for every player I’ve ever coached who didn’t get the chance to win this game. And I just want them to know it’s as sweet as we all imagined it to be.”
And that sweet taste will remain — at least until this time next year when these two county brothers go at it one more time.