Newton High’s Cardinals dealt with the two H’s this week — homecoming and heat.
“It has been warmer this week for practices and the players have handled it pretty well. Also, there’s always distractions with all the activities of homecoming,” Newton head football coach Ed Ergenbright said. “We want our players to have fun this week, which is what homecoming is about. We make it clear when they come to practice, the focus is on football only.”
The Cardinals have a tough opponent coming to H.A. Lynn Stadium for Friday’s homecoming game. Burlington’s Grayhounds are 0-3 but bring a strong team into the 7:30 p.m. contest with the Cardinals (3-0). It’s the final non-district game for the two Class 4A teams.
On Friday, Ergenbright’s Cardinals will deal with the heat, homecoming and a hungry Grayhound team. The Grayhounds are led by three very skilled offensive seniors in quarterback LT. Beck, wide receiver Mason Leinbach and running back Tykel Gordon.
“He’s a handful,” Ergenbright said of 6-foot-1 inch, 205-pound Beck. “He is left handed so he likes to go to his left, but he can scramble out of pressure situations and make plays. He can run. His receivers see him scrambling and they break down field for him to throw over people. He poses a challenge for us.”
Beck is 48-of-86 passing this season for 423 yards with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. He has rushed for a minus-9 yards on 26 carries, but scored the ‘Hounds’ two rushing TDs.
Beck’s favorite target is the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Leinbach, who has 19 catches for 186 yards.
Offensively, Newton’s strength is its running game, rushing for 1,122 yards and averaging 7.6 yards a carry and led by five different players. The Cardinals haven’t had to go to the air much in their first three games, raking up 158 yards.
Burlington’s offensive strength is its passing game triggered by Beck. The Grayhounds have rushed for 250 yards, a 2.8-yard per carry average, this season. Gordon, who is a 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, is the leading rusher with 120 yards on 32 carries and has a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Defensively, the Cardinals have struggled a bit in defending the pass, giving up 422 passing yards this season. Ergenbright was pleased how his defense responded a week ago against a scrambling, passing quarterback after having a tough outing at Waterloo East.
Newton has only allowed 198 yards rushing in three games compared to more than 600 rushing yards allowed by Burlington. Burlington’s top four tacklers are seniors with double-digit tackle totals.
“They presented three different defensive front looks against us last year. We’ve been practicing against the two we think we’ll face, but I believe we can make game-time adjustments,” Ergenbright said. “I think we match up well against them.”
Newton is adjusting to a couple of injuries suffered in last week’s home opener. Junior defensive end Mason Lee is out for the season with an ankle injury. Senior split end Trevor Ergenbright has a upper-rib injury which will sideline him.
Junior Lazarus Frisch is slotted to fill the void left by Lee at defensive end.
“Lazarus played the entire second half for us last week and is a very athletic player. We had Quintrail Coley, who we thought would give us more depth on the defensive front, come back out but he broke his foot in practices last week,” Ergenbright said. “With the loss of Trevor, we have enough skills guys to switch people around to help filling that spot.”
Ergenbright said the Cardinals have been focused on getting better in all phases of the game this week. He said he was pleased with the way they’ve locked in on preparing for Burlington.
“This is the kind of team we need to face right now. Burlington will give us a challenge after losing fairly close games to 4A teams in the Davenport area,” Ergenbright said. “It will help us get ready for district play, facing quality personnel much like we’ll see in district games.
“I’ve told our guys homecoming is always much more fun when you win the game on Friday. We’ve told them have fun, but remember we need to take care of business Friday night.”
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