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HSFB: Newman's title defense starts at Rockridge

No cupcake for Comets

The vast majority of memories from the 2013 state championship football season for Newman were good ones.

Some of the bad ones came in a Week 1 home loss to Rockridge. This year's Comets have the opportunity to not let that history repeat itself, as the teams will once again square off to begin the season.

This year's meeting is Friday night in Taylor Ridge.

Rockridge, under then first-year head coach Sam Graves, employed a spread attack powered by all-state quarterback Darren Southwell and all-state running back Dalton McManus to befuddle Newman and roll to a 21-9 win last season.

"It was kind of a kick in the teeth, that first game," Newman senior wide receiver/linebacker Shayne Allen said. "We went out there thinking we were going to be the greatest team in the area, and we lose. It set us back."

Southwell and McManus have graduated, but Newman head coach Mike Papoccia is expecting no less of a challenge.

"Starting with Rockridge is no fun, but that's the way the schedule is," Papoccia said. "We've just got to go out there, keep chipping away at what we're trying to do fundamentally, and hopefully that's what we'll need to do to be successful."

Spearheading the Rockridge attack is expected to be Luke Johnson, a senior who switches from wide receiver to quarterback. He caught 19 passes last season for 483 yards and nine touchdowns.

Three linemen (Cody Ewing, Jake Foy and Austin Kelly) also return to pave the way up front.

Defensively, the Rockets bring back six starters from a unit that allowed 16 points a game a year ago. Newman averaged 41 points a game last year, but managed just nine against Rockridge.

"That's a big concern for us," Papoccia said. "We've got to find a way to put some points on the board against them."

The Comets are ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Class 2A poll, while Rockridge checks in at No. 3. For Newman, it's just the first game of many in which it will take an opponent's best shot, given its recent run of success.

"We're ready for anything," Allen said. "What we have to do is work hard, and more importantly, have fun. Usually when you do those two things, everything just plays out, and hopefully we'll be back in the same spot."

Newman at Rockridge

Where: Rockridge H.S.

When: 7:30

Radio: 102.7 FM

Twitter: @BrianWeidman

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