FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: NEWTON 28, WINONA 29 — Rain washes out Tigers


Tre Hillie attempts to throw a pass while being tackled by a Winona player. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

The Newton Tigers had everything going their way on Friday night on the road at Winona.

Entering the game as the No. 4 seed out of Division 4-2A, Newton had Winona reeling and led 22-8 at the half.

Then came the rain and second-year coach Ryan Smith watched a 14-point lead melt away in the second half as Winona rallied to take a 29-28 win in a rain-soaked game that didn’t end until almost midnight.

With the loss, Newton ends the season with a 6-5 record and the first back-to-back winning seasons since 2002.

Javarious Moore tries to break the tackle of a Winona player. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

But for second-year coach Ryan Smith, it was a tough loss to take.

“No doubt about it, we let that one get away from us, and there’s no excuse for it,” Smith said. “When we went into the half, we were up, and they were down, and we had all the momentum. Then the rain came, and it just sort of killed our vibe. I think we were playing not to loose, and there is a difference in being aggressive and attacking rather than just managing the game. We didn’t do a good job of managing the game.”

While the loss hurt, Smith said it’s all part of the process of building a program.

“There’s one thing about it, you can’t cheat the process,” Smith said. “It really takes four years to build a program. I thought last year that we combined years one and two and this was our year of growth. And then there’s the aspect of every break that we caught last year, we didn’t catch any of those breaks this year. We had 12 kids injured this year and that caught up with us. It goes back to you cannot cheat the process of building a program. There is no quick fix, it’s a process and we have to understand that. That’s two games that we have to know how to finish and better manage the game.”

Newton's Alex Hamilton gets rid of the ball before he is sacked. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

After a ragged first quarter that saw Newton throw two interceptions and featured five punts, Winona got on the board first with a 12-yard touchdown run with 11:50 left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion made the score 8-0.

But Newton then got into gear and went 54 yards in five plays as Sirvares Snow scored on an 11-yard run with 10:26 left in the half. The two-point conversion attempt failed and Winona led 8-6.

Winona then went three-and-out and Newton went 80 yards in six plays as Zachary Johnson scored on a 57-yard run with 6:49 left in the half. Tre Hillie ran in the two-point conversion and Newton led 14-8.

The Tigers dodged a bullet on Winona’s next drive when they fumbled into the end zone, which was recovered by Courtney Hardaway to end a drive with 4:46 left in the half.

Sirvares Snow shrugs off a Winona tackler in a 29-28 playoff loss Friday night. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

The Tigers then hit another big play as Zackariah Johnson turned a short pass from Alex Hamilton into a 61-yard touchdown with 3:44 left in the half. Hillie ran in the two-point conversion and Newton led 22-8 at the half.

Winona got the ball to start the second half and appeared to go three-and-out until a roughing the passer call extended the opening drive. Winona then went 66 yards in 14 plays and finally scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 8:10 left in the third to cut the score to 22-15.

After stopping Winona on downs and a lightning delay, Newton got its last score late in the third as Hillie hit Marcus Bennett on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2:31 left in the third. The two-point conversion attempt failed and Newton led 28-15.

On the ensuing drive, Ran Hardaway ended another Winona threat by recovering a fumble at the Newton 17.

Zackariah Johnson puts up his hand to get the attention of quarterback Tre Hillie at Winona last week. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

As the rain continued to accumulate, Winona took advantage of a short punt on the water-logged field and went 35 yards in three plays, scoring on a 6-yard run with 8:41 left in the game. The PAT was good and Newton held a 28-22 lead.

After another short Newton punt, Winona against needed just three plays to go 35 yards as they scored on a 4-yard run with 5:55 left in the game. The PAT was good and Winona led 29-28.

Newton had the ball two more times in the game but threw two interceptions and had a long touchdown called back to Winona held on for the win.

“We couldn’t flip the field at the end of the game,” Smith said. “We had some guys open short but were taking some third-level shots. We just couldn’t get back going and were doing everything we could do to stop their running game. We were loading the box and just couldn’t get the stops that we needed. It’s just frustrating to lose a game like that.”

Zachary Johnson makes Winona defenders miss on a dazzling 57-yard run for a touchdown. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)

The stats were fairly even as Newton threw for 302 yards and ran for 125 for 427 total yards. Hillie was 9-of-20 passing for 214 yards while Alex Hamilton was 6-of-12 for 88 yards. Both threw one touchdown and had two interceptions apiece. Zackariah Johnson had 131 yards receiving on four catches while Zachary Johnson had 59 yards receiving on three catches and led the Tigers in rushing with 57 yards on two carries.

Winona had 321 yards rushing and 138 passing for 459 total yards. Jalen Campbell led Winona with 118 yards rushing on 20 carries while quarterback Jatyler Moore had 116 yards rushing and 138 passing.

Courtney Hardaway led the Newton defense with 11 tackles while Alex Hamilton and Jemariaus Ford each had 10 tackles. Aurelius Hardy had nine tackles while Snow and Devin Robinson each had six tackles apiece.

Newton fans brave the rain during a lightning delay at Winona on Friday night. The game was delayed three times due to lightning and finished up around 11:30 p.m. Friday. (Brent Maze/The Appeal)