(Powder Springs, Ga.) – After their impressive win over North Paulding two weeks ago, the Newnan Cougars had a bye week to prepare for their Region 2-7A opener against the McEachern Indians.
The Cougars scored the first touchdown of the game and the final two, but the Indians scored six in between to win 41-21.
The Indians’ high-powered offense gets their jet fuel from the combination of quarterback and Coastal Carolina commit Bryce Archie, and wide receiver and East Carolina commit Kaleb Webb. The dynamic duo connected for two touchdown passes in the game.
The Cougars defense came up with a big stop on the opening drive. Faced with a fourth-and-one from the Newnan 23-yard line, the Indians elected to go for it. On an inside running play, Cougars linebacker Tripp Stanton slipped off the block and tackled Makari Bodiford behind the line of scrimmage to give the ball to quarterback James Paige and the Newnan offense.
The Cougars scored first on a 15-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a Nick Owens 3-yard touchdown run. An essential play in the drive was a 17-yard pass from Paige to fullback Jakob Perry that put Newnan deep in McEachern's territory.
Owens finished the game with 78 tough rushing yards on 22 carries.
From there, the Indians reeled off 41 consecutive points. There was a slight delay after the second McEachern touchdown, a 39-yard pass from Archie to Webb. On the extra-point attempt, the football hit one of the game officials flush in the face.
The Cougars displayed resolve and growth in the second half. They never stopped competing and were rewarded when they scored the game's final two touchdowns.
Paige scored on a fourth-and-goal 3-yard run with just a little over a minute left in the third quarter. He had completed a fantastic 29-yard when he escaped from every member of the defense at some point.
Just a couple of days after picking up a college offer from Stetson University, tight end Drew Brooks took a James Paige pass and bowled his way through several Indians defenders to score the game's final touchdown.
Brooks had two catches on the night for 47 yards.
After the touchdown, the Cougars executed a perfect on-side kick and had possession once again. Fullback Jack Fitzgerald had a 31-yard run to get the ball deep into McEachern territory, but Newnan could not score again.
There was a collection of college coaches on the recruiting trail watching the two teams play. The group included East Carolina Head Mike Houston, Kentucky defensive line coach Anwar Stewart and Louisville running back coach De’Rail Sims.
It was Newnan’s first visit to McEachern’s Walter H. Cantrell Stadium, the fifth largest high school football stadium in Georgia with a seating capacity of approximately 12,500.
In the final analysis, the Cougars grew up a little more against the talented Indians. They never quit; they found opportunities to improve and walked away with pride and a lot to build on.
They still have a lot of football ahead of them. They will return to Cobb County next Friday night to face the other top region contender, the undefeated Pebblebrook Falcons.
With the playoffs as their goal, Newnan now has a three-week season to qualify for one of those spots.