Newton’s Dominance Leaves Many Wondering If Eagles Can Be Stopped
It'd be easy to accuse Newton head coach W.T. Johnston of running up the score on the opposition. Just look at the scores.
Newton (12-0) is averaging more than 56 points per game and has outscored its foes by a combined score of 673-145, which equates to an average scoring margin of 44 points.
Things haven't been any more challenging for the Eagles in the playoffs. Just last week, Newton hung 82 points on Grandview. But Johnston was almost apologetic about it, when he spoke with ETSN.fm on Monday.
“I never like to run up the score on anybody," he said. "But the other night, we got really tired (on defense). They were running a play every 14 seconds and we got so tired on defense we couldn’t stop them, so we kept scoring.”
Something Newton has done extraordinarily well this season.
While the state scoring record of 891 points, set by Refugio last year, is not in any danger, the Eagles could finish among Texas' all-time leaders with a strong finish.
“We’ve got four or five guys that when they touch it, can score," Johnston said. "We have some really good athletes right now, a lot of speed and our offensive line is playing real well right now.”
Johnston was asked if he thought Newton's reputation for piling up the points have intimidated some of the Eagles' opponents this season.
“I would think so," he said. "I know you’re dealing with kids and they look at the scores and even the coaches look at the scores. We have a lot of offensive weapons and we do a lot of stuff with multiple offensive formations. We only have about six plays, but we have a ton of formations and that’s been the key.”
Of Newton's top playmakers, senior quarterback D.J. Dean (5-11, 180) gets most of the recognition. The Utah commit has passed for 932 yards and 10 touchdowns, while running for 953 yards and 18 TDs.
“(Dean) was a ballboy in Newton in the third grade, so he’s been on the sidelines all his life," Johnston said. "He’s a high-energy kid and a very quick kid. He does not want to lose; he wants to win more than anybody I know. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve coached."
Dean's rushing total ranks third on a Newton offense that does most of its damage on the ground. The Eagles call running plays about 91 percent of the time.
Kevin Shorter (6-1, 185), a junior, leads Newton with 1,485 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“Shorter is a very special player," Johnston said. "He’s a very fast kid and very strong in his legs. The thing about him is that he can the run and catch the ball. He can do anything we ask him to. He’s not just a running back, he’s probably the best receiver we’ve got. And that makes him tough on defenses.”
Brandon Johnson (5-9, 180), another junior, has gone for 1,030 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Johnson is a very strong kid; he’s a powerlifter for us," Johnston said. "He squatted 700 pounds at the state meet last year at just 172 pounds. He can also bench well over 300 pounds. He’s very quick and hard for one guy to bring him down. He’s not as fast after 40 yards, but through that first 20, he’s very quick.”
Newton averages more than 380 rushing yards per game, and achieves more than nine yards on every carry. The Eagles have seen just about every kind of defensive alignment designed to shut down the run. None of them have worked.
The fewest yards Newton gained on the ground in a game this season was 249, and that was in the season opener against Bridge City.
“Everybody puts a ton of kids of there to stop the run," Johnston said. "We’ve still been able to run the football, which is impressive. Our kids are hard to tackle. We block well, but they’re hard to tackle.”
Speaking of running with authority, Newton's opponent this Friday night is Franklin (11-2), a team known for running just as much if not more than Newton. Franklin is led by star running back Darius Floyd.
“They’re coached well," Johnston said of Franklin. "They are a heavy run team with the old Wing-T. They’ve got a running back who’ll be the best running back we’ve seen all year. He’s a very talented kid, as good as anybody we’ve got I think.”
So what happens if Newton is actually involved in a close game?
“I think they’ll handle it fine," Johnston said. "The kids believe they’re going to win. They don’t feel like they can be beaten right now.”