By Chris Goltermann
The start of the Region 2-7A football schedule seemed to provide everything Newnan and East Coweta may have expected, as well have been concerned about — in that order.
Either way, after one week both teams are even more prepared for what expects to be an intense final month of the regular season.
It began with a flat-out sprint that had the Cougars jumping out ahead of Wheeler and then needing to buckle down at the finish to ruin its Homecoming Night in Marietta in a 38-36 victory that remained in jeopardy until the final 90 seconds.
Newnan handed Wheeler, which earned its first state-ranking in two decades, its first loss of the season while improving to 3-3 overall and more importantly, 1-0 in the region heading into Homecoming Night against Campbell on Friday.
Senior Tyriq Hussie rushed for four touchdowns and Newnan jumped out to an early 17-0 lead before the Wildcats got on the scoreboard with just three seconds before halftime.
Kyle McDonald also had a touchdown catch for Newnan in the victory from sophomore Michael Maginnis, who threw for over 100 yards in the second half.
The Cougars led 31-14 after Hussie’s third score late in the third quarter before Wheeler stormed back to twice pull within two points behind quarterback C.J. Ogbonna, who was near perfect after halftime while finishing with over 350-yards passing.
Ogbonna’s final completion, however, with the Wildcats inside Newnan territory was fumbled by a Wheeler receiver and recovered by Cougars defensive back Denzel Boston allowing the Cougars to run out the clock.
East Coweta’s fate in a tough 51-30 loss loomed much the opposite as the Indians fought all the way back from a 23-7 deficit for a tie game.
Gerald Green scored twice on 60-yard plays, opening the Indians’ scoring on a pass from Nate Cronic, and then racing 64 yards to pull East Coweta to within 23-15 after a trick 2-point play that had Cronic catching a pass from Rakiyan Moss.
Alex Derico’s interception return then tied the game with 4:14 left in the third after another two-point conversion from the Indians.
Westlake and East Coweta traded touchdowns from there, with Dantarious Chunn returning the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to keep the game knotted at 30 apiece.
But the Lions put together another go-ahead score on a drive aided by an untimely penalty on third-down to take a lead for good at 37-30.
East Coweta turned the ball over on its next possession, leading to a Westlake insurance score.
The Lions added a meaningless touchdown with 35 seconds to play in what had been a much tighter game for three quarters.
It dropped East Coweta to 0-1 in the region and 0-6 overall heading into its Homecoming game against Wheeler (5-1, 0-1).