District 8-3A Division II

Newton Eagles (1-3)

vs.

West Orange-Stark Mustangs (4-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Dan R. Hooks Stadium, West Orange

Coaches

  • Newton: W.T. Johnston
  • West Orange-Stark: Cornel Thompson

Last week

  • Newton: lost to Orangefield, 24-21
  •  West Orange-Stark: lost to Foster, 42-14

Next week

  • Newton: vs. Deweyville, Oct. 9
  • West Orange-Stark: at Liberty, Oct. 9

Playmakers

Newton

  • LB Tanner Holmes, Sr., 6-2, 220 (50 tackles; 2 catches, 53 yards; committed to ULL)
  • RB/DB Gabe Foster, Sr., 6-3, 185 (61 carries, 425 yards, 6 TDs, 12 receptions, 127 yards)
  • OL Hunter Flanigan, Sr., 6-1, 180
  • OL Keenan Myers, Sr., 6-0, 210
  • RB/LB Jaron Hanks, Sr., 5-9, 165 (75 carries, 444 yards, 3 TDs)
  • DB Blake Kelley, Jr., 5-9, 155 (28 tackles)

 

West Orange-Stark

  • QB Jack Dallas, Jr.
  • DB/WR Malick Phillips, Jr., 5-9, 165
  • RB/DE Jeremiah Shaw, Jr., 5-11, 180
  • RB Keion Hancock, Sr.
  • RB Keyshawn Holman, Jr.

Just the facts

  • Friday's meeting pits the Class 3A Division II state runner-up against the Class 4A Division II state runner-up.
  • The meeting is the non-district finale for Newton. The team will open District 11-3A Division II play next week against Deweyville.
  • The Eagles have yet to play a school their own size. Its 1-3 record has come exclusively against three Class 4A Division II schools and one Class 4A Division I program.
  • West Orange-Stark has barnstormed between classifications a bit as well. It fell to Foster from Class 5A last week, 42-14, for its first loss of the season
  • The second-to-last time West Orange-Stark played a team from the ETSN.fm coverage zone was the 2014 Class 4A Division II title game against Gilmer. West Orange-Stark led 25-7 at halftime but ultimately lost, 35-25. It defeated Jasper, 53-0, two weeks ago.
  • The Eagles have two established college prospects. Linebacker Tanner Holmes is committed to Louisiana-Lafayette while running back and defensive back Gabe Foster holds seven offers, including one from Purdue in the Big Ten Conference.
  • Newton defeated West Orange-Stark, 19-7, last season. That started an 11-game winning streak to the title game. The team had a 1-3 overall record prior to the game.

Key matchup: Newton's defense against West Orange-Stark's offense.

West Orange-Stark lost a lot of firepower from its 2014 state championship game team, including athlete and current Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. But it simply reloaded around returning quarterback Jack Dallas.

Dallas and company nearly doubled up each opponent it faced before running aground against a larger Foster football program last week. The signal caller is somewhat of a dual-threat and adds an extra wrinkle to a loaded West Orange-Stark backfield.

Newton's defense has played very well against an exclusively Class 4A schedule up to this point in time. Its season-worst point total was 32 points in a 32-8 loss against Henderson two weeks ago.

Linebacker Tanner Holmes has a team-best 50 tackles plus a sack, an interception and a forced fumble to his credit. The defensive unit has five takeaways in total.

The key for Newton on Friday will be to limit force Dallas out of the running game and take its chances defending the pass. Gabe Foster and a handful of other two-way stars make up the Eagles' pass defense.

Don't be surprised if: Newton turns in another excellent defensive performance. Offensively, there's some work to do if the Eagles are going to get another signature win through its non-district gauntlet. The team has only put up more than 30 points once, a Week 1 win against Tatum, and converted six possessions for touchdowns in its remaining three games. But, either way, the Eagles are playing with house money. The schedule is only meant to toughen the team up before taking on teams its own size through the remainder of the campaign.