NEWTON — Just because the Saydel Eagles are 1-6, Newton’s Cardinals (3-4) are not looking past them in Friday’s Class 3A, District 4 football game.
“We can’t afford to overlook anyone. Saydel battles people. They’ve been able to move the ball at times during games this year,” said Ed Ergenbright, Cardinal head coach. “Their coach has done a nice job the past couple of years with the struggling program. They have more athletes on the field this year and are doing a lot of good things.”
The Eagles don’t have the numbers to play a freshman schedule so Friday there will be only a varsity game at Saydel. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Newton controls its own 3A playoff destiny. Winning at Saydel Friday, then beating Ballard at home in the regular-season finale Oct. 25, the Cardinals are in the playoffs.
Ergenbright said the Cardinals have had a good week of preparation. He said the team practiced late on Tuesday because of a middle school game at H.A. Lynn Stadium.
“We always practice well under the lights. We want to carry over the momentum from last Friday’s win to this week and the rest of the season,” Ergenbright said.
Directing the Eagle double-wing offense is junior quarterback Clayton Sommers. Sommers is 25-of-73 passing for 318 yards, but is the Eagles’ leading rusher with 103 carries for 528 yards. Sophomore Dylan Coffin is the tailback, rushing for 448 yards on 92 carries.
“The have a good young tailback and run option out of the double-wing. They use play action passes from that,” Ergenbright said. Sommers and Coffin are sixth and eighth in rushing statistics among district teams.
Newton has the No. 7 rusher in the district in junior Deonne Harris, who has 460 yards on 64 carries and he has caught 11 passes for 175 yards. The Cardinals’ junior quarterback Tyler Wood is second in the district in passing, completing 61 of 115 passes for 876 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Newton’s running attack also features Wood, who has 346 yards on 108 carries and J.T. Thongvanh, who has 286 yards on 63 carries. Tristan Peters has 166 yards on 42 carries, but moved out to receiver last week, “and did well,” Ergenbright said.
Nick Easley, who is one touchdown catch away from tying a school record in touchdown passes for a season, leads Newton’s receiving corps. Easley has 27 receptions for 357 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, the Eagles are led by senior Jake Sherman with 20 solo tackles, 21 assisted tackles and five quarterback sacks. Grant Sherman has 16 unassisted tackles and 20 assisted while Sommers has 11 solo stops and 14 assisted tackles.
Newton counters with senior linebackers Will Brock and Nick Glotfelty leading the Cardinal defense. Brook, who sits 10th in the district in total tackles, has 38 solo tackles and 16 assisted. Glotfelty is credited with 25 solo stops and 19 assisted tackles.
Senior Ryan Thompson, voted the teams’ special teams player of the week, kicked a 28-yard field goal in last week’s win over Adel-DeSoto-Minburn. Thompson is the team’s punter and is fifth in the district with 1,357 yards on 37 punts, which is a 37-yard average. He has had a 53-yard punt this season. On kickoffs, he has had 25 for 1,240 yards with two touchbacks.
“Coming into the season, Nick Easley was one of the best kickers and punters in state but his ankle injury has prevented him from kicking this season,” Ergenbright said. “It’s great to have two players — Ryan and Grant Davidson — who have stepped up and done a fine job for us.”
Davidson, a junior, is 17-of-18 in point-after-touchdown kicks. He has had eight kickoffs for 405 yards with one touchback.
Ergenbright said the Cardinals seemed to be pretty healthy, considering the time in the season. He said there are still several nagging injuries “but nothing to keep anyone out of the lineup.”