An unidentified Kountze player forces a fumble on a Newton ball carrier. -Photo by Harold Williams
Friday the Kountze Lions travelled to Newton to play the top rated Class 2A squad in the state.
The two teams met on a beautiful night and battled on equal terms for four quarters. Finally in the final minute, Newton was able to pull off a 22-20 win.
Even in defeat, coach Tracy Franklin was ecstatic about his team’s efforts and their play on the field. He stated, that he was proud of the kids and their coaches for the outstanding effort.
The Eagles went into the game without their ace running back, Kevin Shorter, and Kountze was forced to play without their outstanding linebacker Ashton Whittle and defensive back Jaydon Cunigun.
The Lions actually drew first blood in the game. Newton had the ball first and on the third play, the Lions forced a fumble and Kyler Bumstead recovered the ball on the Eagles 36-yard line.
Four plays later Justin Harper passed to Grayland Arnold for a touchdown that covered 25 yards. The kick by Blake Best put the Lions up 7-0.
Newton then put together a 9-play drive that took the ball from the Eagle 33 to the Lion’s 5-yard line where the Lions again forced a fumble and Bumstead recovered his second loose ball. This time the recovery was at the Lions 2-yard line.
The Lions moved the ball to near their 50 where a couple of passes fell incomplete and the Lions were forced to punt.
Midway through the second period, Newton went on a 60-yard drive. Brandon Johnson carried the ball five times for 55 yards on the drive. He scored the touchdown on a 2-yard run.
The Lions actually knocked the ball out of the ball carriers hands at the 3-yard line. The ball bounced near the sidelines and Harper nearly recovered it, but it went out of bounds before he could control the ball.
Newton scored the TD with 6:04 left in the half. The Eagles attempted a two-point conversion that was unsuccessful.
The Lions responded quickly. They opened at their 32-yard line. They quickly pushed the ball to the Newton 40 and Harper teamed with Arnold on a second pass for a touchdown. This one covered 40 yards and came with 4:18 left in the half. The kick by Best put the Lions up 14-6.
Newton fumbled the kick but managed to recover it. The Eagles had put the ball on the turf five times in the first half and had lost three of the fumbles. In addition, Kountze had deflected one pass that Arnold managed to intercept.
Early in the second half, the Lions defense forced Newton to punt and Kountze bobbled the punt. Newton received at the Lions 43. This proved to be the turning point in the game.
Calum Foster carried for 22 yards on the first play. Three plays later, he scored on a 7-yard run.
This time Johnson converted the two-point conversion and the game was tied at 14-14.
The Lions responded well on its next drive. They moved the ball 57 yards from its own 33 to the Newton 10-yard line where the ball was fumbled in the exchange between the center and the quarterback.
Newton had their best drive of the night, going 90 yards for a touchdown. The score came on an 11-yard run by Rodney Elam.
During the drive Newton got big help when Foster rambled 20 yards from the 50 and then Kountze was flagged for a facemask penalty that moved the ball all the way to the 15-yard line. Then Newton was flagged on back-to-back plays for a hold and an illegal procedure. This forced them back to the 30 but Newton was able to pick up the yardage that they needed.
The two-point conversion was good and Newton had a 22-14 lead on the first play of the fourth period.
The Lions refused to fold. Best returned the kick to the Newton 35-yard line.
After three runs, he moved the ball to the 20-yard line. Three straight incomplete passes resulted in Kountze having to attempt a 37-yard field goal. The kick was no good. As time was drawing short in the game, Kountze forced Newton to punt.
Best took the punt on the Lions end of the field and returned it to the Newton 27.
Two three yard runs by Jace Warren moved the ball to the Newton 21. Then he made to the 20 on third down. A holding penalty pushed the Lions back to the 30 and then a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
Time was running out and Newton had the ball. The Lions forced another fumble and the ball hawking Bumstead recovered his third fumble of the game. This one was at the 27-yard line.
Ryder Longion, who was playing at quarterback in the place of Harper, hit JJ Edwards with a pass for six yards. The next play he found Edwards again on a 21-yard pass that covered 21 yards.
With 2:48 left in the game Kountze had narrowed the score to 22-20. The Lions had to attempt a two-point conversion. The Lions blasted into the line and the Lion’s ball carrier was flung to the turf barely inches from the goal line.
Newton was able to pick up a first down and run out the clock.
The game was close but Newton was able to hang on and claim the win.
This left the Eagles in sole possession of first place in the District 10-AA-Division I race with a record of 4-0. The Lions are tied with Kirbyville and Anahuac for second place with one loss each. Each team has a record of 3-1.
This week the Lions will play East Chambers. The Buccanneers are a game behind with a record of 2-2.
They have losses to Kirbyville and Newton. The Lions need one win in the final three games to have a shot at the playoffs.