STERLING – For the last 3 decades, Mike Papoccia and his Newman Comet coaching staff have preached two things: playing (and winning) as a team and playing (and winning) the right way.
Friday night was the perfect example of both of those things. Six different Comets ran for touchdowns in a 60-18 rout of Riverdale. Despite the lopsided score, Newman welcomed a surprise speaker into its postgame victory huddle.
“You guys are a class act,” Riverdale coach Mike Goodwin told the kneeling Comet players surrounding him. “You guys played hard, you played a great game, and you did a nice job tonight. You did everything the right way, and you’re a class act. Never forget that.”
Newman (5-1, 4-0 Three Rivers North) scored on all seven first-half possessions, outgaining Riverdale 290-90 while taking a 47-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Comets defense held the Rams (0-6, 0-3) to 26 rushing yards as a team, gave up two of Riverdale’s three first downs on the final drive, and only let the Rams across midfield twice.
“We’re extremely happy with what we did on defense,” senior Elliot Jensen said. “They’ve got a couple of really good runners, guys who hit hard and have some speed, and we just filled the holes and ganged up on them as a team.”
Brady Rude led the way with 11 tackles (7 solo), while Jensen (5 solo) and Mac Olson (4 solo) added 10 each.
On the flip side, the Rams’ defense had little chance against the Blue Machine. Jake Snow’s 86 yards and three touchdowns led the way, but nine different Comets carried the ball, and five of them had at least 36 yards. Jensen had 72 yards and two touchdowns, and Regan Todhunter (47 yards), Olson (43 yards), Michael Ely (36 yards) and Rude (20 yards) each added a TD run.
“We have an awesome line, and they were tremendous tonight,” Jensen gushed. “Riverdale had some big, strong guys up front, but our line opened up some big holes and let us run wild.”
The holes were so big, the first blocking back through the hole went unscathed into the end zone on three of the Comets first five TD runs.
Six Newman backs saw significant playing time in the first half, with five of them scoring touchdowns.
“The starters did their job, and that got the backups in for a lot of playing time,” Olson said. “All our guys work hard every day in practice, and it’s great to see them get the chance to play hard in the games.”
Olson’s second touchdown capped the Comets’ longest drive of the night, a seven-play, 63-yard march to open the second half. After the Rams used up the rest of the third quarter on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Todhunter’s 45-yard scoring scamper showed Newman’s quick-strike ability.
Terry White, the Rams’ standout running back, had 133 of his 160 yards in the second half against the Comets’ second- and third-stringers. He had all three TDs for Riverdale.
The Rams finished with 210 of their 300 total yards after halftime (and 167 in the fourth quarter), when the clock ran continuously (except for after touchdowns) for the entire 24 minutes. The Comets finished with 420 yards, 342 on the ground and 78 more on a 4-for-5 passing night from senior QB A.J. Sharp.
But it was the kudos from the opposing coach that made the Newman players most proud.
“It means a lot for somebody outside the team, outside the program, to tell us they appreciate what we do,” Olson said. “It’s definitely how we want to play as a team, what Newman football is all about, and it worked well for us again tonight.”
Newman 60, Riverdale 18