Controlling the game with sustained scoring drives is what Newton High’s Cardinals are setting out to do. Sometimes the best defense against a quality football team is a good offense.
Newton still is the top rushing football team in Class 4A overall despite losing to Southeast Polk last Friday night with just 171 yards on the ground. The Cardinals will need to execute well offensively as 4A third-ranked West Des Moines Valley comes to Newton’s H.A. Lynn Stadium on Friday.
Valley sports a 6-1 overall record just like Newton does. The Tigers are 3-0 in Class 4A District 4 play while the Cardinals are 2-1. The district game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“Our kids are excited about Friday night. They’re focused on playing better than we did against Southeast Polk,” Newton head coach Ed Ergenbright said. “Valley has outstanding offensive skill players — they’re second to none in the state — and as a defensive unit, Valley is very good.”
Taking on Valley is another challenge for the Cardinals, they go into the 4A District 4 game Friday focusing on establishing their top-ranked rushing offense against one of the top defense in the state. Newton leads 4A with 2,766 yards on 262 carries, which is an 7.6-yard per play average. Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson (4-3) is second at 2,655 on 358 carries.
Valley’s only loss was to 4A top-ranked Dowling Catholic. The Tigers have three wins over ranked teams in 4A — No. 4 Bettendorf, No. 6 Johnston and No. 7 Waukee. They held Fort Dodge to 14 points and beat Southeast Polk in double overtime, 41-34.
It’s going to be strength against strength when Newton has the football on Friday night. Valley has allowed a total of 729 rushing yards — 104 yards per game — in seven contests. Only two players — Dowling’s Jayson Murray (138) and SEP’s Shane Starcevich (130) — have gained over 100 yards against the Tigers.
Valley’s defense has allowed 1,218 yards passing from opponents, which is 174 yards per game. It has given up 141 points, 20.1 points per game, while its offense has scored 226 points, 32 per game.
Capitalizing on opportunities offensively and defensively is important for the Cardinals. Ergenbright pointed out his team didn’t do that against Southeast Polk last week.
‘We had about 2 1/2 drives and were able to generate some offense, but Southeast Polk are pretty good defensively and didn’t have a weakness. We were over-matched,” Ergenbright said. “Valley is much the same. They play very physical on defense, they are well coached and they don’t make mistakes which is why they are successful.”
The Tiger defense has 12 players with double digits in total tackles. It is led by senior Joe Wellman with 31 solo tackles and 24 assisted tackles and junior Jon Shaner with 24 solo stops and 17 assisted tackles.
“We have to execute and sustain drives. Taking four to six minutes off the clock each drive finishing with a score will shorten the game. We want to keep their offense on the sidelines. We have all our personnel on offense for Friday’s game,” Ergenbright said. “We’re looking to keep them guess and not let them tee off on us defensively.”
Newton will face another quarterback and running back duo with explosive-play capabilities. Valley’s balanced offense is led by junior quarterback Beau Lombardi, who is 6-foot-2 inches and 216 pounds, and senior tailback Jevon Mason, who is 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds.
Mason has 548 yards on 82 carries. The Tigers, as a team, have 1,049 yards on 230 carries.
Lombardi is 94-of-176 for 1,099 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. His top target is senior wide receiver Tariq Brown, who has 36 receptions for 372 yards and two TD catches.
“Last week, it was frustrating for us defensively because we had good schemes and players were in position to make plays. We have got to capitalize on having an opponent in the backfield,” Ergenbright said.
“Making those plays behind the line of scrimmage can end drives. We can get our defense off the field. We have to play with more reckless abandon, play with more inspiration on defense against a superior talented team.”
Ergenbright is expecting that inspiration on Friday night led by the team’s seniors, who will play their final home game at H.A. Lynn Stadium.
Several injury updates for the Cardinals. Junior defensive end Mason Lee returned to the lineup last week at Southeast Polk. Senior running back Carson Cazett and senior linebacker Joe Busch could be available to play next week at Indianola.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org