EDGINGTON – For 24 minutes of football, a couple of colleagues and I were shaking our heads in the press box.
This football team, with a host of seasoned seniors returning, won a state championship last year?
Consider these statistics about Newman.
It rushed 13 times in the first half for 33 yards – and 25 of those came on one play.
On the second play of the game, the Comets’ normally stout defense gave up a 73-yard touchdown run to Rockridge quarterback Luke Johnson, who was making his first start at that position.
Johnson rushed 18 times for 132 yards in the first half, and the Rockets amassed 182 yards on the ground as a team.
Newman looked dead in the water, much like it did in a 21-9 loss to the Rockets in last season’s opener.
The second half, however, Newman looked like the team that ran the table in its final 13 games a year ago.
The ground game got untracked a bit, with 106 yards rushing, highlighted by a 39-yard TD run by Brady Rude.
Special teams got into the act. A 42-yard punt by Regan Todhunter pinned Rockridge on its own 2 midway through the third quarter, and that was followed by a nifty punt return by Trevor Bolin to set up Newman’s go-ahead score.
Most important, a leaky defense stifled Rockridge for all but one play in the second half. That one play was a 56-yard run by Rocket quarterback Luke Johnson with just under 7 minutes to play.
Johnson, however, was caught from behind by Rude, and the Comets were able to keep the Rockets from scoring.
“We raced him in the 4 by 2 down at state,” Johnson said of Rude, “and I saw his speed first-hand. I actually knew it was him behind me, so I was trying to kick it into whatever gear I had left. I knew he was coming. He was probably the fastest kid on the field. If I had it in me, I thought I could beat him, but I fell about 10 yards short.”
Last season’s loss to Rockridge was a wakeup call for the Comets, and they recovered in time to win it all in 2A.
This season’s wakeup call came at halftime Friday night, and Newman will now have this victory to draw upon when facing adversity down the road.
One down – 13 to go, the Comets hope.