There’s only one thing on the mind of Newton football coach Zach Grady.
And that’s trying to find a way to win a football game.
Newton enters the season riding a 16-game losing streak but returns host of players from last year’s squad.
The Tigers start the season with four straight road games, kicking off with Morton on Aug. 21.
“They are a good football team,” Grady said. “They were young just like we were young last year. They had a couple of pretty good lineman up front. It’s a game we should have won. It came down to the end and they beat us in the last quarter. I think our first games of the year we had a shutout in the first half and ended up losing it in the second half. Again, it was a game we should have won and this year we have to go out and play better and get the win. Getting off to a good start is critical.”
The next week, Newton will travel to Jackson to play St. Andrew’s, a team they lost to 27-20 last year.
“Same thing as the first week,” Grady said. “We had a shutout the first half and got in a dog fight the second half. We went for two in overtime and lost. It was a close game. They are a young group as well. Didn’t do enough to win. That’s another game that was right there but we didn’t do enough to win.”
Newton will continue its road trip as the Tigers then travel to North Forrest in week three.
“Same exact scenario as the first two weeks,” Grady said. “We got into a dog fight with them and went back and forth. They got a score and a turnover and were able to pull away and win. And they went on to make the playoffs. That’s another game we should have had.”
The Tigers end the road trip with a trip to Heidelberg to take on the Oilers.
“I may be wrong, behind Philadelphia, they were the most talented team that we played last year,” Grady said. “They had a lot of bodies and had athletes all over the field. They had some lineman, a big quarterback, some big receivers and a good running back. They had all the pieces. We have to strap it up. We will go there. It was 8-0 at the half and they came back and won in the second half. We just have to play better. People just wore us out in the second half. They had some big, long lineman.”
Newton will finally come home to E.L. Morgan Field as they host Raymond.
“They are a 4A school and it was a close game last year,” Grady said. “We got to the 1-yard line and had the momentum and fumbled at the 1. We were getting ready to score and leaped into the end zone and guy knocked the ball out of our hands. That was real critical because the kids were still fighting. That kind of took the air out of our sails. That was a huge deflator mentally.”
Newton will stay at home as they host Hazlehurst on Sept. 25.
“They just smoked us and they weren’t the Hazlehurst of old,” Grady said. “They had a little running back and he run through us like a hot knife through butter. We just couldn’t tackle him. After we lost to Raymond, it was a huge deflator and we played terrible.”
The Tigers will then open Division 6-2A play as they travel to Union to take on the Yellowjackets.
“I thought we competed a lot better than we did the week before,” Grady said. “Union pulled away but we played better ball. Hats off to the coaches in our district. They do a good job. There are some districts where you get a week off but our are not fortunate enough to be in a district like that. Every game in our district is a tough game.”
Then the Tigers will host 2A powerhouse Scott Central.
“They were really young last year,” Grady said. “But they had a good football team and have a lot of kids coming back this year. They will be pretty much the same. I don’t expect them to drop off. You don’t win in this district because somebody else drops off.”
The Tigers will then make the short trip down Highway 80 as they take on Lake on Oct. 16.
“Their quarterback (Brady McGee) is probably my favorite player in the district,” Grady said. “He has a lot of grit about him. I hate to play against him but he plays hard. He is a good football player. Whether he had to make a throw or make a run. He’s just a playmaker and will find a way. That’s a game we had a chance to win and then he just took over. I thought he got hurt against Heidelberg the week before and I thought we had a chance if he didn’t play and then he was the first guy out.”
Newton will then finish up the regular season by hosting Philadelphia.
“They lost a lot but they are still Philadelphia,” Grady said. “They still have some good players there. They lost all the lineman, the quarterback and the receiver. They lost a lot of pieces. They felt like they had a chance to win it. They were really good last year and utilized all of their weapons.”