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Simple Execution the Key to Newton’s Dominating Run Through the Season

Newton takes on Cameron Yoe on Friday night in a Class 2A Division I state semifinal. (Retha McClinton, ETSN.fm)

The Newton Eagles have dominated the opposition all season long, including the playoffs where they have outscored their three opponents 199-65.

Last week against Franklin, Newton had its closest game of the playoffs thus far. The final score was 49-13.

How do they do it? Simple.

“We played good up front on defense and our offensive line played really good,” Newton coach W.T. Johnston said. “We blocked real well and we’ve got some guys that can run really fast.”

One of those guys is junior running back Kevin Shorter, who ran for 275 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 attempts.

“He was a little bit different player than everybody else on the field,” Johnston said. “He was a little faster, stronger and more determined. He hasn’t had to do that much all year because we held him out some during district because we were scoring so many points. He didn’t get to run like everybody else. He didn’t get 20 carries a game like some other running backs do.”

Despite rarely playing a full four quarters, Shorter leads Newton with 1,760 yards and 31 touchdowns.

The key to Newton’s prowess in the running game, which averages 383.8 yards per game, is a young but extremely talented offensive line. Four of the five starters are either juniors or sophomores.

“They really came through and we weren’t sure they were going to,” Johnston said. “But that’s probably been the biggest difference with our team from last year. We start two sophomores and two juniors and three of them were on the JV last year. But they’ve really come through.”

The starters include sophomore left tackle Brent Simmons (6-2, 275), sophomore left guard Treavon Davis (5-9, 215), junior center Tyler Gibson (6-0, 250), senior right guard Robert Kenebrew (5-8, 215) and junior right tackle Jordan Mattox (5-10, 265).

On the other side of the ball, Newton’s defense put a stop to Franklin’s vaunted rushing attack.

“We put more people up front than they had to block,” Johnston said. “We put somebody in every gap just about. We forced them to throw it, and when they threw it, we caught it. We play a lot of different fronts, multiple fronts. We’re always slanting and stemming, moving around a lot at the snap of the ball.

“We’re not real big on the defensive front, but we’re real fast. I don’t put big kids in there if they can’t move. Our defensive tackles played real well the other night.”

Newton’s offense, which averages more than 55 points per game, gets most of the praise. Many have overlooked the Eagles’ defense, which gives up just 12 points a game.

That’s OK with Johnston.

“I don’t care as long as we can keep scoring,” he said. “It makes my job that much easier. I hope we can score 40 again this week.”

Newton (13-0) may receive its sternest test of the season this week against fellow unbeaten Cameron Yoe.

“They’re 13-0 and we’re 13-0,” Johnston said. “Everybody’s good. There are only four left. I think they’re good on defense. I can tell they’re coached very well. They don’t do a whole lot, but what they do, they do very well.”

The 2A Division I state semifinal is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday from Shenandoah’s Woodforest Bank Stadium. The winner will face either Wall or Daingerfield in the state final, which is set for noon Friday (Dec. 21) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

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