TATUM -- It wasn't a typical Newton win.

The Eagles scored their lowest total of the season on Friday against West Rusk. They had several close calls. Unlike every game prior to this one, Newton needed each second to grind out a 21-7 victory.

W.T. Johnston, the coach of the Eagles, believes his team is better for it.

"We have not had to struggle in any games this year," Johnston said. "This is going to help us down the road. I was wondering if we got in a game like this what we would do. Our defense stood up. It was unbelievable."

The Eagles gave up one touchdown to Tyree Wilson, who seemed unfazed as defenders bounced off him on his way to a 34-yard score. That was with 8:57 in the first quarter. Newton was in lockdown mode the rest of the way.

It allowed only 74 total yards and forced a crucial interception in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good. West Rusk had opportunities to score twice. The first came after an interception from Levi Hughes put the Raiders on the Eagle 14 yard line. West Rusk gained seven yards, turning it over on downs. The next chance came on the Raiders' ensuing drive.

The defense forced a three-and-out from Newton and tipped the punt. This gave the Raiders excellent field position at the 25 yard line. Three plays later, Josh Foster came up with the game-sealing interception.

"Defense is going to win state for us one day," defensive back Tamauzia Brown said. "We've just got to keep playing hard whether it's on the goal line or in the open field."

Defensive lineman James Sylvester said the opportunity to play in a high-pressure situation was exciting. He also admitted to feeling nerves after the West Rusk touchdown. However, those feelings soon subsided when the Eagles took control of the game.

"We started getting nervous after that," he said. "Our coach told us we had to come on and stop playing like little girls. We had to be stronger."

Although defense dominated the game, Newton did finish with a couple of noteworthy offensive performances. Brown, who also plays receiver, finished with six receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. He served to complement running back Darwin Barlow, who finished with 28 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown.

Barlow was critical in Newton's control of the clock, especially down the stretch when it was determined to keep the ball away from the Raiders.

"He's a 200 pound kid, very strong and always moving forward," Johnston said. "He had some tough runs. Kevin Watson came in on third-and-20 and we ran the trap and he got 20 1/2. That was the play of the game. But Darwin, he's a special guy. He's not scratched his talent, either. He just turned 16. His best days are to come."

The victory moves Newton on to the regional final game, where it will face Waskom. The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Lufkin.

The Eagles have oozed confidence all season, with good reason. That didn't change tonight even after their toughest challenge of the season. They still spoke about getting to state not as an "if", but as a "when."

Still, a game like Friday's will serve as a good primer for the competition they will see in the next few games.

"The number one lesson I learned is to keep my composure," Brown said. "We're gonna keep playing hard next week and every week after that until we make state and win."

Newton 21, West Rusk 7

At Eagle Stadium, Tatum

Newton              14    0   7   0    --    21
West Rusk      7    0    0    0    --    7


First Quarter
NEW--Tamauzia Brown 33 catch from Josh Foster (Caleb Colon kick), 10:53.
WR--Tyree Wilson 34 catch from LaJavius Harper (Levi Hughes kick), 8:57.
NEW--Darwin Barlow 31 run (Colon kick), 5:42.
Third Quarter
NEW--Foster 20 run (Colon kick), 6:04.

                                           NEW                    WR
First Downs                             13                       2
Total Yards                             355                     74
Rushes-Yards                   48-215                 27-29
Passing Yards                        140                    45
Comp.-Att.-Int.                8-13-2                    3-16-1
Punts-Avg.                         6-28.8               7-39.1
Fumbles-Lost                          0-0                    2-0
Penalties-Yards                     7-65                  4-25

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Newton, Darwin Barlow 28-158, Josh Foster 9-16, Kevin Watson 6-41, Tamauzia Brow 4-(-2), Davien Johnson 1-2. West Rusk, Jaylon Garland 12-38, La'Javius Harper 8-6, DJ Hart 3-(-6), Matthew Davidson 1-7, Team 3-(-16). 
PASSING--Newton, Foster 8-13-2--140. West Rusk, Harper 3-16-1--45.
RECEIVING--Newton, Brown 6-107, Melik Rawls 1-26, Barlow 1-7. West Rusk, Tyree Wilson 1-34, Jaylon Garland 1-7, DJ Hart 1-4.