The Valdosta Daily Times
The defense looked vulnerable, the offense was sloppy, nothing about Lowndes looked familiar to what Vikings fans witnessed against the Rams a year ago; this year, Newton was able to squeak out a 15-14 victory over the Lowndes High School Vikings.
Newton came to Martin Stadium on Friday night looking for some revenge for a 31-0 romp by the Vikings last season and they looked to improve in their second trip to Lowndes.
“You can’t take anything away from Newton. They've got a good football team,” said Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson. “They’re much improved, but we made too many mistake. You aren’t going to beat anyone playing like that.”
Lowndes suffered through an awful first half against the Rams, getting flagged six times for 45 yards and fumbling the ball three times, losing two.
The Vikings moved the ball decently, but could not sustain drives even though Ahman Brown ran for 118 of the team’s 140 total yards in the half.
While Lowndes struggled offensively, Newton was able to get into a rhythm early by spreading out the Vikings defense with four and five wide receiver sets and throwing short quick passes.
Despite the poor first half, the Vikings looked good on both sides of the ball on each unit’s first drive of the game.
Newton began with the ball on their own 26-yard line. After a first down, defensive tackle Zack Copeland was called for an encroachment penalty, and the Rams were looking to build momentum.
But on the very next snap, Copeland tackled quarterback Romario Johnson after a short gain and followed that up by planting a Rams runningback in the backfield for a loss.
When Newton attempted to punt the ball away, the Lowndes rush forced the punter to tuck the ball and he was tackled for a turnover on downs.
On the next play, Brown broke a run to the outside for 39 yards and a touchdown, following a two-point conversion. The Vikings were up 8-0.
The Rams responded quickly to the touchdown, tying the game at 8 after a 50-yard touchdown run by Atrice Hobbs.
At that point everyone in Martin Stadium knew that this would be a tight contest.
The rest of the first half featured the Vikings offense constantly shooting themselves in the foot and putting themselves in third and long situations with penalties.
At one point in the second quarter, Lowndes faced a third and 50.
Even when the Vikings were able to move the ball, a fumble seemed to be right around the corner to shift the momentum back Newton’s way.
Despite the offensive struggles, Lowndes’ defense was able to adjust to the quick passes of the Rams and kept the score knotted at 8 apiece after the first half.
Following halftime, it looked as if the Vikings were reenergized and ready to pull away from Newton. Brandon Roberts took the second half opening kickoff to the 50-yard line to set the Vikings up with prime field position.
But it would just be one of those days for Lowndes. Each time they took a step forward, they would take two steps back.
Two plays later, Brown fumbled the ball and Newton was able to come up with the recovery.
Lowndes’ defense got the ball back for the offense on a Brian Bell interception returned to the Rams 40, but the Vikings would move backwards 20 yards in the span of three plays before punting.
It looked like the Vikings would be able to pull out the win after a pass interference extended a drive on third and eight; on the next play, Jerome Daniels found a crease in the middle of the defense for a 10-yard touchdown, but a bad snap on the extra point kept the score at 14-8 with nine and a half minutes remaining in the game.
Lowndes almost iced the game when Chris Hill picked off a Rams pass on the next drive on Newton’s side of the 50, but once again the Vikings offense could not move the ball and was forced to punt.
The Vikings got one final chance to put the game away on their next drive.
Eric Hart ripped off a 42-yard run down the right sideline to give Lowndes the ball on the nine-yard line with under three minutes remaining.
But the Vikings moved backwards during the next three plays before setting up for a 29-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.
The Rams were able to block the field goal and the ball rolled out at the 35-yard line. Newton needed 65 yards to go in under a minute to win the game.
After Vikings defensive lineman A.J. Harper drew a hold and followed that with a sack. Soon the Rams were down to a fourth and 33 to win the game.
That's when it all went downhill.
With all of Newton’s receivers blanketed downfield, Johnson took off and picked up 34 yards on the play before being hit as he went out of bounds, adding another 15 yards to the end of the play.
From that point on, the Rams took shot after shot as Davonta Jones matched up on Roberts.
Despite playing some good coverage, Roberts was called for a pass interference on a third down, and he gave up a touchdown catch to Jones on a spinning grab in the endzone as time expired.
The Rams added the extra point and the rest was history.
The Vikings finished with 203 yards on the ground, but the 13 penalties for 122 yards and five fumbles, three of which were lost, were too much to overcome.
“We moved the ball up and down the field, but we couldn’t score because of the turnovers,” said McPherson.
Luckily for the Vikings, Newton was not a region foe which means the Vikings still control their own destiny in their quest to win the region.
Lowndes will try to clean up their mistakes when facing 5A Windsor Forrest next Friday at Martin Stadium.