By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
Most cars don’t come equipped with a full-sized spare.
But when the Newnan Cougars’ running game suffered a potential flat last week, they found another sophomore that kept them cruising on the road to a second consecutive victory.
Aubrey Carter, however, may not be regarded any longer as a substitute in Newnan’s offense. A 144-yard effort on 26 carries proved the 10th grader was ready to take on a larger load of the offense during a 42-20 victory over Alexander where he added his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season.
Carter’s outing was on par with sophomore teammate Bryson Moss in a similar 40-point outing that resulted in a victory two weeks earlier against Northgate.
But Friday, the sophomore duo will reduced to a solo act.
Newnan is expected to turn to Carter for at least this Friday and possibly longer after Moss suffered an injury shortly after he also broke the 100-yard plateau last week against Alexander.
It may turn out to be merely a speed bump for a Cougars team that is suddenly clicking on both sides of the ball while taking a winning streak into a home game against Griffin (1-1).
With that latest accomplishment now checked off, Newnan works on taking its next step toward consistency this fall.
“The only thing I was disappointed in, is we could have ended it real quick in the second half [against Alexander] and we had a couple chances,” head coach Chip Walker said. “That’s the next step. There’s always a next step.”
The pace, though, has increased for opposing defenses each of the last two weeks, with Griffin tasked with slowing down a Newnan offense coming off single-game highs in nearly every statistical category over its first three games.
The Cougars finished with 486 total yards in the win over Alexander, which opened with an immediate 70-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Michael Maginnis to senior Woody Waters.
Maginnis finished 11 of 17 passing for 206 yards to eclipse the previous week’s highs (9 of 14, 111 yds, TD) in his third varsity start.
Equally, the team’s offensive line equally paved the way for 100-yard outings for both Carter and Moss, with Newnan averaging 5.7 yards over 50 carries including a long of 42 on a carry by Moss that resulted in his injury.
“One of the things we do have a luxury in is we’ve got some good skill [position] people,” Walker said.
By halftime, Carter, Moss and Waters were all over 100 yards, respectively, in rushing and receiving yards.
“I thought the offensive line was knocking people around real good again,” Walker said. “I thought Maginnis started the game with an unbelievable pass on first down on the first play of the game. From there, he really played well. He’s seeing things good and he understands where the ball is supposed to go. All the different things we want him to do, he’s doing.”
A defense that has been steady throughout the opening month added five more sacks last week for a team total of 14, having been led by a veteran defensive line.
After each team traded three scores apiece, the Cougars slowed Alexander’s passing game in the second half while pulling away.
“We hadn’t seen that style of offense from Chapel Hill or Northgate. It took a little bit of time to adjust to it, but we did,” Walker said of Alexander, which passed for 208 of its 296 total yards.
Not to be lost on Walker was the effort from special teams, highlighted by Rad Wyrick.
The senior specialist has posted a punt between 46 and 49 yards in each of Newnan’s first three games, averaging 38.4 yards with two inside the 20-yard line so far. He’s also 12-for-13 on PATs to go with a 22-yard field goal in the win over Northgate.
“He had a punt [last week] that pretty much set up our second touchdown,” Walker said of Wyrick.
Newnan now tries for its first three-game winning streak since earning four straight victores to close the 2015 season as the No. 2 seed in Region 3-AAAAAA.
The Bears enter Drake Stadium fresh off a bye week at 1-1 overall while trying to rebound from a 35-20 loss to Clay-Chalkville, Ala., in a neutral-site game at Lakewood Stadium.
Griffin has posted a 21-5 record while in its third season under Antonio Andrews, while yet to suffer more than two losses in 2016 or 2017.
The Bears, who surrendered 26 points to East Coweta in this year’s preseason scrimmage, entered the year with seven starters back on offense, but a question mark behind center between talented starting candidates.
Against Clay-Chalkville, Griffin finished with 178 yards passing, but lost four turnovers including three interceptions in a game where the Bears faced a 35-6 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Shun Foster and Quamari Williams combined on touchdown throws of 30 and 53 yards to senior Darryl Matthews II, the latter on a pass that was deflected by the reach of an intended target.
Both Foster, a junior, and Williams have been used behind center through two games.
Griffin’s season began with a 20-13 comeback win over rival Spalding in which the team threw for 241 yards while scoring all of its points after trailing 13-0 at halftime.
“They’re very athletic. Big, fast, any adjective you can use to typically describe a Griffin team in the past, pretty much goes,” Walker said of Griffin, which is expected to compete with Starr’s Mill and Whitewater for this year’s Region 3-5A crown.