“Even though we were down, we had great energy,” first-year Newton head coach Josh Skelton said. “I think how hard we practice got us here. The belief in that locker room. These guys do a great job ignoring all the rankings and just focus on the locker room.”
The unexpected comeback began when running back Marcus Calwise took the ball on what appeared to be a sweep. But when the defense drew closer, Calwise hit a wide-open Malik Brightwell for a 79-yard touchdown.
“Our offensive coordinator made a great call,” Skelton said. “It’s something honestly that we do a lot in practice. The moment was necessary for it and the guys executed.”
After Grayson quickly went three-and-out, Newton drove for another score, overcoming a holding penalty in the process. Benson threw to Calwise for a 43-yard gain to the 1 and Zion Johnson finished it on the next play, cutting Grayson’s lead to 27-23 with 6:32 left.
The Newton defense, bolstered by big defensive end Ryshawn Perry, again forced a three-and-out to set up the winning drive. Benson had two first-down throws on the march and gave the Rams the lead on a 32-yard pass to Keon Davis with 2:47 left. Samuel Velasquez kicked the extra point for a 31-27 lead and removed Grayson’s option for a field goal.
The Rams gamely drove to the 9 and got pushed back to the 19 because of a holding penalty on third down. Quarterback Jeff Davis completed a pass to John Cineas, who fought to the 10, but on fourth down Davis’ pass in the end zone bounced off a pair of hands and fell incomplete.
“This solidifies us,” Skelton said. “It validates all the hard work. We started in the off-season by saying that it wasn’t a rule that we had to lose the game. We just felt like from the jump that if we play our best game and prepare the right way, we can win every game. So it kind of validates what we’ve been working for.”
The postgame situation on the was intense, as emotions spilled over on each side. Coaches from both sides pulled their players away from a potentially ugly situation and Newton players walked triumphantly to their dressing room in the Grayson gym.
Newton (6-0) got a clutch performance from Benson, a sophomore who completed 16 of 34 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns and rushed six times for 30 yards. Johnson carried 16 times for 109 yards and one touchdown and caught five passes for 20 yards. Calwise caught three passes for 107 yards.
“We just pushed through adversity,” Benson said. “The first half we weren’t clicking, but the second half we came through.”
Grayson (4-2) got 104 yards rushing and one touchdown from Miller. Davis completed 10 of 20 possess for 76 yards and one touchdown.
The first quarter was like a track meet. Newton scored on its first possession, a 52-yard pass from Benson to Calwise, who made a one-handed catch and run. Grayson immediately answered, as Davis dropped a pass over the defense to Aiden Taylor for a 57-yard touchdown.
The Grayson defense forced a punt and the offense scored took advantage. Davis had his helmet knocked off on second down and had to exit the game for a play. No problem, as backup Travis Burgess entered and tossed a 47-yard touchdown pass to John Cineas.
That’s when the defense for both teams began to take over. Newton added a 27-yard field goal from Samuel Velasquez with 10:38 left to cut Grayson’s lead to 14-10 and the score stood up until the break.
Grayson took a 21-10 led by capitalizing on a short field after a 16-yard punt. The Rams needed only five plays and Davis ran it in from the 7.