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New Hope gets physical against Caledonia


Adam Minichino



CALEDONIA -- Of the nine players who had carries for the New Hope High School football team Friday night, Q Newby and Austin Oswalt are by far the best to speak for that group. 


While Ryan Lee, Bryson Ellis, or Brandon Spann may have better speed, Newby and Oswalt epitomize the kind of physical football coach Michael Bradley feels his team needs to play to be successful. 


Newby and Oswalt best used their prototypical fullback physiques Friday night on an 18-play touchdown drive that helped New Hope beat Caledonia 35-0 Friday night. 


"To be successful at the state level in 5A football you have to be physical," Bradley said. "We have got to start being more physical on the line of scrimmage. Hopefully us going to more of an attack where we go straight at people instead of trying to zone block people and reach people will help us with that physicality. Football is a game of blocking and tackling, and that is what we're trying to establish with the personnel we have on our team." 


Coming off a 9-6 loss to Columbus High last week, Oswalt said New Hope worked hard to improve its execution in the I-formation. Earlier in the season, New Hope didn't run out of the 'I' and worked more from a spread formation. Last week, New Hope didn't get a first down in the second half. On Friday, the Trojans (2-2) had 178 rushing yards at halftime. 


"We just want to establish the state of being physical on both sides of the ball and to be a physical team," Newby said. 


Newby, who suffered an ankle injury last week in a loss to Columbus, had six of his 10 carries on the drive that ate up 6 minutes, 30 seconds. Bradley said he tried to hold Newby out to help him rest his injury, but he said the senior, who moved from defense to running back in the preseason, wanted to play, so he let him go. 


Oswalt had three of his nine carries, including a 2-yard plunge that capped the march. 


"I was pleased with that drive," Bradley said. "That is about the only highlight I saw in the first half, offensively anyway. I thought our guys did a good job of establishing the line of scrimmage." 


Oswalt remembers recent New Hope teams that had success relying on a powerful running game and a physical brand of football. He said the 2009 team, which featured Terrance Dentry at running back and a powerful offensive line, played "really, really physical" en route to an 11-2 season. 


Oswalt said last week was the Trojans' first week running the I-formation, which partly explains why the team wasn't able to get a first down in the second half. He felt New Hope used the week of practice to improve its execution and to be more physical. 


"Mind-set is about 100 percent," Oswalt said. "You have got to be willing to go out there and hit somebody as hard as you want to, and you have to make your block even if you're not getting the ball." 


Oswalt said being more physical in practice will help prepare the team for what it will face in Class 5A, Region 1 play. That slate begins next week against Saltillo, so Oswalt said the Trojans will have to play a physical brand of football from here on out. 


"Coach has been telling us to get physical and all we did was run like 75 percent of the game," Oswalt said. "We are just trying to get more physical before district starts." 


The running of Newby and Oswalt set the table for the Trojans' speed options like Lee, Jauquin Weatherspoon, who scored on a 23-yard run in the first quarter, and Ellis, whose 29-yard touchdown run in the final minute helped account for the final margin. Ellis (team-high 71 rushing yards) played an integral role in helping New Hope gain a season-high 243 rushing yards on 50 carries. That total is more than double what the team gained on the ground (99) in its first three games. 


"(Bryson) has been doing a really good job in junior varsity," Bradley said. "One of two things is going to happen when you do that. You're going to get better and we're going to try to give you a chance to play in a varsity game. He has been doing really good in practice, and we try to reward kids who work hard in practice." 


Bradley was equally complimentary of the effort by Caledonia and its fans. He talked to Caledonia coach Ricky Kendrick after the game and praised the Confederates for their fight and for how much they have improved. He also was impressed with the packed crowd at Caledonia High. 


"I was very impressed with how the fans were into the game and provided a great atmosphere for a high school football game," Bradley said. "With the type of effort they are giving and the type of support they are getting from the fans and the community, good things will happen if everybody continues to work together like that." 


Kendrick hopes Caledonia (4-1) can learn lessons from the loss and get healthy. Junior quarterback Ben Marchbanks was forced to leave the game late in the first quarter after he was pushed out of bounds, lost his balance on the Caledonia sideline, and then fell on his right shoulder. Joshua Betts came in at quarterback for Marchbanks, who had his shoulder examined on the sideline. Before the start of the third quarter, he tried to keep his throwing arm loose without his shoulder pads, but he grimaced when he threw and didn't return. 


Caledonia also lost fullback Cole Bruce to what was believed to be a concussion and offensive lineman Danial Cunningham. The Confederates also played without junior running back Onterrio Lowery, who Kendrick said had successful surgery Friday and is expected back for spring football, and another starting offensive lineman. 


Despite not playing without all of his weapons, Kendrick was pleased with the effort. He feels his players understand they can't hang their heads now that their winning streak is over, especially with a game against perennial power Ackerman next week. 


"Our kids, after the thing is over, they are displaying what I expect to see out of kids who want it," Kendrick said. "There are tears, and this is big time. Our kids knew it was a tough game ahead, but they still wanted it. They didn't want to give up those other touchdowns (in the fourth quarter). But it just wears on you, the numbers they have and their size. The tears in their eyes and their heart and their mind-set about things, I am just tickled to death to see it. I had heard several people say that in the past when it was 14-0 they would have folded and it would have been 40 at halftime. They didn't. It was fixin' to be a ballgame if we had scored this one -- a little one, at least -- but we are fixin' to move forward." 


Kendrick liked the position Caledonia was in in the fourth quarter. Trailing 14-0, Ryan Unruh helped the Confederates capitalize on a dropped snap by punter Jerrod Bradley by smothering the attempted kick. An 11-yard pass from Betts to Luke Eads on first down gave Caledonia a first-and-10 at the New Hope 24. Two plays later, though, New Hope's Jovantay Lewis recovered a fumble that ended the threat. 


"I think we were fixin' to score that time," Kendrick said. "Our kids were pumped up and they were playing hard. Turnovers happen. That is part of it. We are getting 5 and 6 yards a clip with our JV backfield, so we are pretty happy about it." 


The Trojans then went on an 11-play drive -- buoyed by three more rushes from Newby -- to move into scoring position. A 29-yard pass from Brady Davis to James Hill on third down set the stage for a fortuitous bounce. On second down, Davis lofted a pass to the left corner of the end zone that defensive back Randy Randle tried to knock down. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the deflection stayed up in the air long enough for Hill to cradle it for a 24-yard touchdown. 


While Bradley will take bounces like that any time, he also knows the Trojans will be even more successful if they can use a balanced offense to create opportunities for themselves. The key, he said, is having the right mentality and taking it at teams. 


"It is an attitude," Bradley said. "Physicality is an attitude. It is an attitude we seem to have gotten away from in the last couple of years. The ultimate responsibility for that is mine, and I am trying to correct that and get us back to an attitude of being physical."


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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