So far, the 2012 season certainly hasn't gone the way the Newton football team and Cardinal fans would have liked.
Coming off a 49-7 drubbing at Grinnell — one of the most lopsided losses in recent history — Newton is 1-4 on the season and 1-2 in Class 3A District 4. The Cardinals entered the Grinnell game with some momentum after upsetting South Tama a week earlier. Its offense seemed to be clicking in that game, but certainly not last Friday. Newton was held to 126 yards of total offense, including just 35 on the ground.
The Cardinals have only mustered 328 yards on the ground through five games on 181 attempts — a paltry 1.8 yards per carry average. That's made things especially tough on sophomore quarterback Tyler Wood and the passing game since teams know that if Newton is going to move the ball, it's going to be through the air. While Wood has completed 53.9 percent of his passes — second-best in the district — his eight interceptions are tied for the district lead.
With Newton's offense struggling, the defense has had an equally tough time stopping opponents. The Cardinals are giving up 33 points and 380 yards per game, with almost an equal balance of rushing and passing yardage surrendered.
But what must be kept in mind is who these teams are that Newton has struggled against. One would be hard-pressed to find a team that has played a harder schedule than the Cardinals. All five of their opponents were either ranked in the top 10 or just outside of it at the time they played them. Three of them — Norwalk, Boone and Grinnell — are ranked in the top 7 in 3A. Norwalk is receiving first-place votes. Right now, the five teams Newton has played have a combined record of 21-4.
And there are still reasons to be optimisitic for the rest of the season. As far-fetched as it sounds, the playoffs still aren't out of the picture for the Cardinals. Newton has three district games left, all of them winnable. Winning all three would essentially assure itself of a spot in the postseason, and it would still be possible by going 2-1.
While the schedule so far has been a gauntlet of top-notch opponents, the second half of it features opponents like Dallas Center Grimes (1-4), Saydel (0-6) and Ballard (2-3). Newton also has to face fifth-ranked Adel-DeSoto-Minburn (5-0) on the road next week, but that is a non-district game. If Newton wins all three of those remaining district games, it would finish 4-2 in the league and grab a playoff spot. One has to think that Boone and Grinnell are locks for the postseason, while South Tama also will likely get in.
Like Newton, its Friday opponent — Dallas Center-Grimes — has had its fair share of struggles this season. The 1-4 Mustangs have scored only 12 points per game so far and are giving up 31. Their offense is averaging 245 total yards per game, with only 99 passing yards per contest.
But, DCG will enter H.A. Lynn Stadium in high spirits, coming off its first win of the season last week — a 9-7 grinder over Knoxville. The Mustangs also nearly upset South Tama back on Sept. 7, falling 26-24. And like Newton as well, DCG can make the playoffs by winning three of its last four district games, and it's quite possible as those opponents include Saydel and Ballard — besides Newton. So, the Trojans will have just as much riding on this game as the Cardinals. The winner will still be very much alive in the playoff picture, while the loser will be figuratively out of it.
DCG's offense is run by smallish quarterback Andrew Kramer — a junior listed at 6-foot-0, 140 pounds. He's completed only 30-of-77 passes this season (39 percent) for 426 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also the team's second-leading rusher, carrying 57 times for 220 yards. The Mustangs' main threat on the ground is senior running back Alex Hansen (6-1, 185), who's run for 360 yards and five scores on 87 attempts (4.1 yards per carry). Against Knoxville, he had 114 yards and the team's only score. Hansen and Kramer also are the team's two leading tacklers on defense.
JENKINS TO BE HONORED
Newton will honor legendary former coach John Jenkins during Friday's game.
The Newton Senior High School athletic department would like to invite any former players of coach Jenkins to attend the game to thank him for his 17 years of service and for the many lives he had a positive impact on.
Jenkins was the head coach for the Cardinals from 1986-2003. He compiled a career record of 143 wins, 41 losses and 1 tie. He helped lead Newton to 15 playoff appearances, three conference titles and two appearances in the state championship game in 1988 and 1990.