Sadly, Friday night might be remembered more for what was happening in the skies above H.A. Lynn Field than what transpired on it.
Mother Nature cut short the Newton football team’s fun vs. Saydel on Senior Night, but the Cardinals came away with a dominant performance nonetheless. Newton dominated the Eagles, 35-0, putting itself on the doorstep of its first playoff berth since 2007.
The Cardinals scored touchdowns on five of seven possessions in the first half and were in the middle of their eighth when lightning forced the teams and fans to clear the stadium for a delay. When it was deemed the delay would be lengthy, and with a blowout on hand, coaches from each team agreed to end the contest with three minutes left in the second quarter.
While the win was a needed one and came in near-ideal fashion, the fact that Newton got to enjoy it for not even a full half was less than fulfilling.
“I’m always going to be a little disappointed because we didn’t get to finish the game,” said two-way senior starter Derrick Hurt, who had three tackles for loss. “This could be our last game here, so it’s disappointing to end it like that. But it feels good to come out with a win and one win away to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.”
Newton started fast and didn’t let up against the winless Eagles (0-8, 0-6), scoring 28 points in the first quarter. The Cardinals made it 35-0 early in the second as sophomore quarterback Tyler Wood threw his third touchdown pass of the half.
Newton’s defense was equally impressive, holding Saydel to 49 total yards and forcing three turnovers that led to scores.
“Our plan was to do exactly what we did. We wanted to get on them early and overwhelm them and not give them any hope to stick around,” Cardinals head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “I thought our kids did a great job with that on both sides of the ball.”
The victory evened Newton’s overall record at 4-4, and more importantly, moved it to 3-2 in Class 3A District 4. If the Cardinals can manage a win over Ballard (2-6, 1-4) next week, they will clinch their first playoff berth since 2007. If they lose, they would need a little help to get in.
Newton was well on its way to its best offensive output of the season by far, as it finished with 158 yards in only 21 minutes of game play. The vast majority game through the air, with Wood having a sharp performance. He completed 9-of-13 passes for 133 yards with three scores and no interceptions. In doing so, he tied a school record for TD passes in a game — held by four others. He also became the third Cardinals quarterback to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season (1,056).
It was Newton’s defense that sparked its first score. Saydel had the game’s opening possession, and on its second play, Cardinals’ senior Collin Reynolds picked up from where he left off from his game-winning interception against ADM a week earlier by picking off Saydel at the Eagles’ 27 and returning it to the 22. Three plays later on third-and-3, Reynolds took a short pass from Wood and curled up the far sideline for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 just 91 seconds into the game.
“That’s exactly what we wanted to see — stopping them right away and getting our offense rolling,” said Newton senior linebacker Ryan Jolivette, who had four solo tackles.
The Cardinals forced a three-and-out and started its next possession at the Eagles’ 42. Newton converted a fourth-and-5 to set up a first down at the 21, where Wood threw a slant to sophomore Deonne Harris, who caught it at the 10 and turned up and into the endzone for a score. That made it 14-0 with not even midway through the first quarter.
Newton went three-and-out on its next possession, but its defense came up big moments later as Saydel fumbled a snap near its goaline and Cardinals’ junior Will Brock recovered it at the 1. Sophomore Tristan Peters went up the middle for a score and a 21-0 lead with 2:20 left in the quarter.
Another big defensive play set up the Newton’s fourth score. Saydel went 3-and-out on its next possession and Cardinals’ junior Ryan Thompson blocked the punt, allowing Newton to take over on the 13. On the very next play, senior Jesse Bates took a carry off left tackle for a touchdown to make the score 28-0 with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
Newton got its fifth and final score a couple minutes later. After another Saydel three-and-out, the Cards took over on their 48. On third-and-four, Reynolds caught another quick pass in the flat, slipped two tackles and zoomed up the Newton sideline for a 46-yard touchdown — his fifth score of the year. Reynolds leads the district in receptions (38), yards (579) and is tied for second in TDs.
Saydel responded with its only concerted drive of the game, gaining 45 yards down to the Newton 25, but it fizzled out and ended with a missed 45-yard field goal.
When the Cardinals’ offense took over, Ergenbright had already removed Reynolds and fellow senior starting wideout Andrew Clements from the game to get more players into the game. Newton went three-and-out and Saydel followed with a turnover on downs on the Cards’ 41.
Newton’s ensuing drive had a third-and-18 and it converted it as Harris made a nice catch along the sideline for a 21-yard gain.
But it was right after that — with 3:03 remaining in the half — when officials directed teams into their locker rooms because of incoming lightning, and the sky began to light up moments later. A 30-minute delay was originally called for, but 15-minutes in, it was announced that Ergenbright and Saydel’s head coach agreed to end the game as it was.
“The main thing is, you can’t control the weather,” Ergenbright said. “It was a mutual agreement between I and the coach from Saydel that the game was over. My only hope was to get all of our seniors into the game. When you can’t do that on Senior Night, it’s frustrating. That was the only downfall to what happened.”
Newton 35, Saydel 0
(game called with 3:03 left in second quarter)
Saydel 0 0 — 0
Newton 28 7 — 35
N — Reynolds 15 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 10:29
N — Harris 19 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 6:39
N — Peters 1 run (Easley kick), 2:20
N — Bates 13 run (Easley kick), 0:55
N — Reynolds 46 pass from Wood (Easley kick), 9:48
Game stats S N
First downs 2 5
Rush att.-yds 14-20 12-25
Pass comp.-att-int 3-10-1 9-13-0
Pass yards 29 133
Total off. yards 49 158
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 3-12 2-15