Whirlwind start dooms Tigers against Tornadoes

By BRENT MAZE,

PHILADELPHIA — A 14-0 hole at the beginning of the game proved to be the difference in Newton’s 36-22 loss to No. 1 Philadelphia.

For the second straight week, Newton (5-2, 0-2 in district) showed nerves against a top-notch Class 2A team, but this time, the Tigers battled back and gave the Tornadoes (7-0, 2-0) all they wanted.

“It was the first quarter. If we come out and play the first quarter and don’t play tight and don’t make mistakes we’re fine,” Newton head football coach Ryan Smith said. “They scored two touchdowns off of two first quarter turnovers (on downs), and it’s 14-0.”

On the first two possessions, Newton put it in reverse before being forced into punting situations, and both times, bad snaps forced the punter to try and pick up a first down.

On the first possession, a 13-yard loss on fourth down led to a 22-yard Courtney Smith touchdown and two-point conversion.

The punter tried to throw a pass on the second attempt, but the play only gained five yards on fourth-and-27. From there, Deiondre Fox took it in for a nine-yard touchdown, giving Philadelphia a 14-0 lead at the 8:57 mark of the first quarter.

Most of the first quarter was played in Newton’s territory until Newton’s Andre Ware picked off Philadelphia’s pass and returned it to the Tornado 33.

The Tigers had to overcome a holding penalty and an intentional grounding penalty to cash in on the turnover. Tre Hillie connected with Zachary Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown on fourth-and-18. Brother Zackariah Johnson caught the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 14-8 with 1:40 remaining in the first quarter.

Ware went right back to work on defense and came up with another fumble recovery. That led to Hillie’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Javarious Moore, tying the game moments into the second quarter.

Sirvares Snow recovered a muff on the ensuing kickoff, and that set off a seesaw battle of turnovers. After Newton fumbled the ball, Zackariah Johnson gave it back to Newton on an interception. After another punt, Ware recovered yet another fumble to give the ball back to Newton.

However, Newton failed to take advantage of those three Philadelphia turnovers. The tornadoes settled down and drove 60 yards in seven plays, capped off by Malik Hickman’s 12-yard touchdown run. Ahyunte' Crosby added the two-point conversion to give the Tornadoes a 22-14 lead.

Midway through the third quarter Philadelphia went on another long drive, aided by a facemask penalty that wiped out another Tornado fumble and a roughing the punter penalty that kept the drive alive.

On the ninth play of the drive, Cortney Smith scored a 1-yard touchdown to put Philadelphia up 28-22.

The Tornadoes’ Francisco Wilson recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Tiger defense stiffened early in the fourth quarter, stuffing Cortney Smith on a fourth-down play.

With 5:02 to play, Newton overcame a holding penalty that wiped out a touchdown and eventually scored on Hillie’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Moore. Zackariah Johnson added the two-point conversion to pull within six with 3:35 to play.

Philadelphia recovered the ensuing onside kick, milked time off the clock and added an insurance score on Cortney Smith’s 33-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion with  1:20 to play.

Newton got as close as the Philadelphia 16 before Malik Hickman sealed the win with an interception.

Hillie finished with 203 yards, completing 16 of 31 passes with three touchdowns and one interception. He also had nine rushes for 84 yards.

Zachary Johnson led the way with 60 yards receiving on five catches with a touchdown. Moore had 59 yards on two catches, both of which went for touchdowns. Zackariah Johnson had six catches for 55 yards.

Alex Hamilton led the team with 10 tackles on defense while Je’Marious Ford had eight tackles and a forced fumble.

Ryan Smith said he loved, as a football fan, the contrast of styles.

“That’s what I love about our guys because we don’t know anything about off-tackle power. That isn’t what we do,” Ryan Smith said. “We get in space and we play basketball. So for us to be resilient enough to stand our ground in there and just go toe-to-toe and trade jabs and haymakers and fight. Man, I loved it. That’s so much better than last week. That isn’t what we want. We’re not content with that, but we can do something with that.”