(Orange, Texas)

August 31, 2013

Cards fight hard, fall to 2A No. 1 Newton

Gerry Dickert
The Orange Leader

BRIDGE CITY — If the Newton Eagles were a car, they would be a Ferrari. An Olympic sprinter? Usain Bolt. An animal? More like a cheetah than an Eagle for sure.

Newton, the top-ranked Class 2A team in the state of Texas, showed exactly why they earned that preseason mark as the Eagles’ speed led them past Bridge City 44-20 on Friday night at Larry Ward Stadium.

“I asked their coaches if their water boys are fast because everyone else on their team is so fast,” Bridge City Coach Cris Stump said. “It’s good to play somebody like Newton because they are so fast. We just can’t simulate that in practice so it helps us for when we get down the line with teams like Silsbee, West Orange-Stark … Jasper.”

The blistering speed became immediately evident as the Eagles took the field for the opening kickoff. After just a four-yard kickoff return, Newton put the pedal to the metal and headed for the end zone. And it didn’t take long for the Eagles to hit the scoreboard … 25 seconds, to be exact.

Junior quarterback Roney Elam hit Jace Thomas for a 32-yard gainer on the first play of the game, then senior back Kevin Shorter took it the rest of the way on the next snap of the ball, sprinting up the right side of the field for 41 yards and a 6-0 Newton lead.

It looked as though Bridge City would fold quickly when on the first offensive attempt, a fumbled pass reception landed in the hands of an Eagle defender.

But the Cardinals came alive on the next Newton offensive possession as the BC defense forced the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs.

Taking that momentum onto the offensive side of the ball, BC started moving against the Newton defense. The Cards were unable to convert, though, eventually turning the ball over on downs.

The Eagles took the ball at their own 20-yard line and managed just a yard on a run by Shorter. On the next play, though, Elam connected with Ched Hanks for 79 yards and another Newton score. With 4:13 left in the first quarter, the Eagles held a 12-0 lead.

Bridge City might easily have shrugged its shoulders and starting thinking about next week’s game. Instead, they marched the field and scored a touchdown.

Junior quarterback Chase Shugart orchestrated a drive that went 53 yards on five plays. Hunter Uzzle opened the drive with a 2-yard run, backed by pass completions from Shugart to Keaton Langston for 5 yards and Blaine Slaughter for 7. Shugart took the ball 3 yards to the 36, then hurled a TD pass to Langston with 1:53 left in the first quarter. With the TD strike, coupled with Newton’s missed extra-point attempts, the Cardinals pulled to within five at 12-7.

“Chase is a composed guy back there, he’s football-smart,” Coach Stump said. “He made a few rookie mistakes back there but he played well. I like our chances when we have him at quarterback. I sure don’t mind putting the ball in his hands.”

Shugart finished the night 13 of 28 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. His top receivers were Malcolm Busby with 3 catches for 69 yards and Keaton Langston with 4 for 59.

The Cardinals defense withstood the Eagles speed on their next offensive attack as Newton punted away possession to BC. The Cardinals were forced to start from their own 3 yard line but a couple of good plays edged BC out to the 17. It was there that a long-snap went through Shugart’s hands and rolled into the end zone where Newton’s Raylin Davis pounced for the touchdown and an 18-7 Eagles lead with 8 minutes left in the half.

After some back and forth through most of the rest of the second quarter, the Cardinals opened their final drive of the half with a 51-yard pass completion from Shugart to Malcolm Busby, moving BC to the Eagles 14. It took four plays and an exciting fourth-down pass completion but the Cards moved into the end zone to close the gap to four points at 18-14 with 16 seconds left before the break.

The Eagles had just 12 seconds left to the half after the ensuing kickoff. Elam hit Keyaun Seastrunk for a 23-yard pass, leaving 5 seconds on the clock. On the next play, Elam threw a tight spiral 33 yards into the end zone where he found Shorter for the touchdown. Suddenly, the Eagles were back up by 10 points, 24-14.

“The kids played to the end,” Stump said. “We did some good things but we made some mistakes. Those things, you can’t do against THOSE guys.”

The Eagles took advantage of an interception at the start of the second half as they moved 58 yards in four plays, capped by a 61-yard run by Shorter that put Newton up 30-14 with 8:05 left in the third quarter.

The senior back finished the game as the top runner, piling up 122 yards on 10 carries with two TDs. Elam surpassed the 200-yard mark in passing, completing 7 of 14 passes for 203 yards with one interception. His top receiver was Thomas with two catches for 101 yards while Shorter had four catches for 69 yards.

The Eagles extended their lead to 36-14 after running off 57 yards in 10 plays – the one legitimate offensive drive by Newton – ending with a 5-yard push by Johnson for the score.

Still not convinced the game was over, the Cardinals put together a drive of their own, moving 59 yards in 11 plays, ending with a 1-yard run by Uzzle to bring the Cards to within 36-20.

Newton put the game to bed, though, with a two-play, 43-yard push, scoring on a 31-yard run by Calun Foster. The junior running back finished the night with six carries for 87 yards.

“We missed about three touchdowns just off our fingertips tonight, and we gave up some big offensive plays,” Stump said. “We’re going to be good. We just have to keep working at it, but we’re going to be good.”

The Cardinals travel to Vidor next Friday night to take on the Class 4A Pirates.