Top-Ranked Newton Hopes for Fast Start to 2013 at Bridge City
No. 1 Newton Eagles
Bridge City Cardinals
7:30 p.m. Friday
Larry Ward Stadium, Bridge City
- Newton: W.T. Johnston
- Bridge City: Cris Stump
- Newton 35, Bridge City 12 (season opener at Newton's Singletary Stadium)
- ATH Kevin Shorter, Sr., 6-0, 190
- RB Brandon Johnson, Sr., 5-10, 185
- DE/LB Anthony Hadnot, Sr., 5-9, 223
- QB/DB Roney Elam, Jr., 6-2, 167
- RB/DB Calum Foster, Jr., 6-0, 158
- LB Chedrick Hanks, Sr., 6-1, 205
- OL Jordan Mattox, Sr., 5-10, 265
- DL Justin Williams, Sr., 6-0, 205
- DB Carlton Myers, Sr., 5-10, 160
- TE/LB Keyaun Seastrunk, Sr., 6-1, 215
- DE Josh Henry, Sr., 6-2, 210
- RB Ashton Hunter, Sr., 6-0, 195
- QB/DB Chase Shuggart, Jr.
- OL Jackson Roberts, Sr., 6-0, 252
- DT Jordan Schamber, Sr., 6-1, 245
Just the facts
- Newton averaged 53.1 points per game last season and held opponents to 14.1 per contest during a 13-1 Class 2A Division I state semifinal campaign in 2012.
- The Eagles scored 63 or more points six times in 14 games last season.
- Newton's Kevin Shorter and Brandon Johnson combined for 3,059 rushing yards and 48 rushing touchdowns as juniors.
- Newton must replace starting quarterback/defensive back D.J. Dean, who rushed and threw for more than 1,000 yards each last season before signing with Arkansas to play cornerback.
- Newton beat Bridge City 35-12 in last year's season opener behind a 20-point second quarter that gave the Eagles a 28-12 halftime advantage.
- Bridge City's Ashton Hunter ran for 1,224 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, but Newton held him to four carries for minus-3 yards.
- Bridge City's Chase Shuggart, who could take over the starting quarterback duties, is the Cardinals' leading returning tackler from his defensive back spot.
- Bridge City went 5-6 last season and lost to Coldspring-Oakhurst in a Class 3A Division II Region III first-round playoff.
Key matchup: Bridge City defensive front vs. Newton running game. Newton has athletes all over the field on both sides of the ball, but the Eagles' showstoppers are usually the guys taking handoffs.
That shouldn't be any different this season. Kevin Shorter returns after a monster junior season that caught the eye of college recruiters nationwide, resulting in about 30 offers for the 6-foot, 190-pound speedster, who recently committed to Texas after narrowing all those options to a final three of the Longhorns, Arkansas, and Texas A&M. Shorter and Brandon Johnson give head coach W.T. Johnston perhaps Class 2A's best running back tandem, a welcomed sight for the Eagles as they replace starting quarterback and two-way standout D.J. Dean.
As simple as it sounds, Bridge City has very little chance of winning this game if the Cardinals can't somewhat contain Newton's running game. Nobody did that last year until Cameron Yoe in the 2A D-I state semifinals. Even then Johnson ran 17 times for 151 yards while Shorter and Dean were held to 80 yards on 27 carries.
As the saying goes, Bridge City's best defense could be a good offense. That would keep the Eagles' rushing attack off the field and give the Cards a chance to dictate tempo. Of course, then they have to deal with a Newton defense returning seven starters from a unit that held 9 of 14 opponents to 13 or fewer points last season.
In other words, pick your poison.
Don't be surprised if: Newton finds somebody -- Roney Elam or Calum Foster, perhaps -- to run the show from the quarterback position and the Eagles' high-powered rushing attack doesn't miss a beat.
Newton enters the season as a consensus 2A No. 1 and should not have an issue racking up a second consecutive season-opening win against Bridge City as long as the Eagles stay healthy and don't turn over the ball.