Newton Holds Off Canadian, 21-16 For Back-to-Back Titles
ARLINGTON -- W.T. Johnston experienced life Thursday.
Johnston, the coach at Newton, watched from a wheelchair on the sidelines as the Eagles captured their second state championship in as many season, defeating Canadian, 21-16 in the 3A D-II title game at AT&T Stadium.
With just seconds to go, Canadian drove down near the red zone to give itself a chance to win the game. As the Eagle coaches worked together to put together a defensive plan for the final drive, Johnston put the game fully in the hands of his defensive coordinator and son, Drew.
"I was thinking to myself, 'I’m gonna let him do this,'" Johnston said. "And he did. He’s a guy who leaves no stone unturned. Even there at the end he was going, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘You know what to do.’ The kids respond to him."
Dominique Seastrunk provided the biggest play of the game, coming away with an interception in the end zone to seal the victory.
The story couldn't have been scripted any better for Johnston, who has battled chronic graft-versus-host disease for the past few years after receiving a lung transplant in 2015. In March, he was told he had a maximum of eight months to live. Nine months later, he sat behind a podium, clear tubing pumping oxygen up his nostrils, and lectured reporters on the values of life.
"I tell everybody that I’ve been given a great gift," Johnston said. "What I mean by that is I can see how my life affects somebody before I die. Most of you guys ain’t gonna get that chance. You’re gonna have a heart attack, gonna get in a wreck. I try to talk to (my players) about life. Everybody in this room, these young boys are gonna experience life. That’s all I’m doing. I’m experiencing life."
The victory gave Newton back-to-back titles for the first time in school history. Johnston said though the talent level was there, he was concerned about the Eagles being mentally prepared for a second championship run.
They quickly assuaged those doubts.
Running back Darwin Barlow, who finished with 141 total yards and two touchdowns, said the championship has been on his mind since 2014. Then, he was only an eighth grader tasked with wheeling Johnston's oxygen tank in the state championship, a 41-22 loss to Waskom.
“It meant everything," Barlow said. That’s all our class dreamed of was to go win the state championship. I just wanted to get it for (Johnston).”
The Eagles' offense struggled to score all game, putting the pressure on its defense, which forced two turnovers in the first half, including an interception returned for a touchdown from Kevin Watson.
Newton punted 10 times Thursday, more than it has all season. It failed to score and was outgained 289-73 in the second half.
In spite of all this, Johnston said he trusted his team late in the game.
"This bunch will respond and they do not panic," he said. "There at the end, they’re throwing into the end zone for a win. That’s a feather in our kids’ cap. I always say, ‘You’ve got to coach where you fit.’ I fit with these guys because you can coach them really hard and they respond.”
The victory imarked the last high school game for Barlow and Josh Foster, who plays quarterback and defensive back. Both will graduate and attend TCU on football scholarships. It is also the end to the careers of many other seniors who have contributed to one of the most dominant groups in Newton history. The Eagles outscored their opponents 816-140 this season and 783-144 in 2017. That's a combined 1,599-284.
The success, Johnston said, will only make the town hungrier heading into next season.
"In about three weeks, they’re gonna be talking, ‘What are we gonna do next year?’" he said. "Football is it. It’s the biggest show in town. These guys have a responsibility every time they step on that field to represent Newton and give the people of Newton a show."
Newton 21, Canadian 16
Class 3A Division II Championship
At AT&T Stadium, Arlington
Newton 7 14 0 0 – 21
Canadian 0 0 10 6 – 16
NEW—Darwin Barlow 4 run (Caleb Colon kick), 8:05.
NEW—Kevin Watson 13 interception return (Colon kick), 4:20.
NEW—Barlow 10 pass from Josh Foster (Colon kick), 0:48.
CAN—Saul Escamilla safety, 6:00.
CAN—Casen Cavalier 5 run (Cavalier two-point), 4:38.
CAN—Carrison McCook 11 pass from Cavalier (two-point failed), 3:12.
First Downs 13 17
Total Yards 253 344
Rushes-Yards 51-166 32-114
Passing Yards 97 230
Comp.-Att.-Int. 7-16-0 21-48-2
Punts-Avg. 8-32.9 5-38.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 4-1
Penalties-Yards 10-75 3-20
RUSHING—Newton, Darwin Barlow 24-96, Kevin Watson 10-44, Val Fowler 3-19, Zach Gulley 3-2, Team 1-(-1), Josh Foster 10-(-4). Canadian, Casen Cavalier 21-95, Trent Evans 1-21, Hayze Hufstedler 8-9, Caleb Martinez 1-3, Team 1-(-14).
PASSING—Newton, Foster 7-16-0--97. Canadian, Cavalier 20-47-2--206, Josh Culwell 1-1-0--24.
RECEIVING—Newton, Barlow 3-45, Galen Kellum 2-19, Fowler 1-14, Dominique Seastrunk 1-13, Kevin Watson 1-6. Canadian, Garrison McCook 14-174, Hufstedler 3-22, Evans 3-10, Bill Koetting 1-24.