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Newton a pipeline for McNeese State football

LAKE CHARLES – Just call it McNeese West.

We’re speaking of Newton High School in Newton, Texas; a small Southeast Texas town with a population of about 2,500 folks that’s settled on Highway 190 about 14 miles from the Louisiana border.

Why McNeese West? Well that’s because over the past 20 years some of the greatest football players in school history have come out of that tiny town or surrounding areas, and this year is no different.

Senior safety Brent Spikes, a preseason all-Southland Conference and all-American, proudly boasts the Newton flag this season along with incoming freshman running back Calum Foster. And although he’s not from the town of Newton, senior Kelvin Bennett comes from the same Newton HS stock.

Foster’s father, Bryan, was a running back for the Pokes from 1992-95 and was a part of two SLC championship teams. And despite playing backup to Henry Fields, the school’s all-time leading rusher, Bryan ranks in the top 30 on the career rushing list with 1.430 yards.

Back to Spikes, he’s coming off the best season of his career that saw him lead the team with 83 tackles and four interceptions. He tied a school record with three picks against Incarnate Word on Oct. 25, and set a new school, conference and Louisiana record with 148 interception return yards in that game.

Bennett, a native of Bleakwood, Texas which is right down the road from Newton, enters the 2015 season right behind Bryan Foster on the school’s career rushing chart. But his move to the defensive side of the ball this year will likely keep him at his 1,430 career rushing yards, unless a move back to running back is needed.

Bennett holds the school record for the longest running scoring play from scrimmage at 93 yards against Lamar on Nov. 17, 2012. He had a 76 yard score that same year against Nicholls two weeks earlier.

Before Bennett, there was running back superstar Toddrick Pendland who carried the Newton HS banner from 2006-09. Pendland led the team in rushing in 2008 and 2009. His 2008 total of 1,431 yards is the most in a season in school history and helped garner him all-America honors as well as the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year award.

He’s currently ranked fourth on the McNeese career rushing list with 3,137 yards.

Around that same timeframe – 2008-11 to be exact – and you’ll find safety Darrell Jenkins who was an all-conference back for the Cowboys, winning a championship in 2009. Also in that championship season, another Newton HS product, defensive end Terrence Freeman, earned all-conference honors.

Defensive end Bryan Smith, a third round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2008 NFL Draft, calls Newton home and had an unforgettable career for the Cowboys from 2004-07.

During his career he was a two-time first team all-American by the Associated Press and earned all-America honors by Walter Camp, Football Coaches Association, The Sports Network, College Sporting News, and Don Hansen’s Football Gazette.  He was named the league’s defensive player of the year as a junior (2006) and player of the year in 2007 in his senior season. He also played in the 2007 Hula Bowl.

A two-time first team all-SLC selection, Smith continues to hold the school career record with 31 quarterback sacks as well as most sacks in a game with five (vs. West Virginia Tech, 2006).

Going further back on the timeline and you’ll find safety Rod Gulley who played from 2000-03 and was a two-year starter for the Pokes. Gulley won three straight conference championships (2001-03) and was a starter on the 2002 squad that played for the Division I National Championship.

He earned all-conference honors during his career and still holds the school’s career mark with three pass interceptions returned for a touchdown and is tied for seventh with 12 career picks.

Defensive tackle Lamont Glenn played for the Cowboys from 1991-94 and really started the Newton pipeline. He helped the Cowboys win two conference championships while making their first-ever FCS playoff slate (1991).