Coaches dispel the influence of luck and superstition in games.
Still, when the Newton Eagles played at Casey-Westfield it was a Friday and the thirteenth day of September. And there was a full moon rising in the eastern sky in the first half behind the many visiting fans from Newton. There were no earthquakes or lightning at Casey that night, but Warriors did have a powerful running game pounding the turf and a player named Storm Washburn.
Penalties, poor execution of some key plays and injuries all contributed to Newton’s 21-12 loss that night. Plus, the purple and black Warriors were bruising blockers, tacklers and runners. They also had some talented ball hawks, too.
“The Washburn kid did a really nice job of running the ball. They just kinda ran power football that we couldn’t really stop. We made some adjustments and had a couple of nice stops when we came out after half and made them punt. That was really big and we thought we could get down and move the ball into the end zone. But more than anything they established the run game and we just could not get it stopped,” Newton head coach Jason Fulton said after the game.
But as a full moon rose on the horizon, it seemed the football fortunes turned for Casey-Westfield. And trouble stayed with Newton team from that point for most of the contest.
Yet, the power running game by Casey-Westfield more than bad omens led to Newton’s defeat. The Warriors piled up 280 yards rushing in the contest, compared to less than 100 yards rushing for the Eagles.
Casey took the lead with a touchdown by Storm Washburn at 7:39 into the first quarter – the first of three he scored in the game. Newton would get on the board with a drive split between late in the first and in the opening seconds of the second quarter when Adam Bridges scored from the 2-yard line. A long run by Newton’s Ben Meinhart and a determined run by Payton Birch just short of the goal line set up Newton’s first score.
Then came some of the trouble for Newton on Friday. The point-after kick by Frank Cucinella “doinked” off the goal post and Casey still led 7-6. Stranger things would happen to the Eagles before the night ended.
Ben Meinhart would intercept a Casey-Westfield pass to stop a Warrior drive at the Newton 40 with just over eight minutes in the second quarter. The Eagles offense could not get going from there. They lined up to punt from the 43.
Birch took the ball on the fake punt and ran around end with a crowd of purple jerseys chasing him. They didn’t catch Birch and he sprinted standing up after a 67-yard dash. With a successful kick, the Eagles appeared to be ready to rack up 13 points for the lead.
It was all called back on a holding call against the Eagles.
“I’m anxious to see it on film. The referee said he had him on the back. We’ll see. It was away from our bench so I can’t make a determination on that right now,” Fulton said.
Casey-Westfield’s offense started rolling downfield after the punt and Washburn scored from the 18 just a few minutes after Newton’s reversal of fortune on the fake punt.
With the kick, the Warriors led 14-6 and took that lead into the locker room at halftime.
After an exchange of possessions in the third quarter, Newton’s offense got into gear with a combination of plays. They had the ball on the Casey 11-yard line at the 4:31 mark on the clock.
Pushing the ball inside the five, the Eagles could smell the end zone. But they didn’t have their starting quarterback on the field at that point. Birch had to leave for a vision issue with a lost contact. A broken pass play on fourth down ended the drive at the three with the Warriors taking over.
“That was tough luck for us,” Fulton said. “The play we called would have been better for Birch in there. That was a tough spot to put Marshall [Tarr] into at that point.”
The Eagles defense stepped up and stopped Casey-Westfield on different plays. The Warriors had their backs to the wall and with another stop by the defense there would be a punt with the kicker deep in the end zone.
Casey signal caller Aden Brenton then rolled out and hit Nate Fouty for a 34 reception and run that put the Warrior offense out of danger.
“The big play came when we had them backed up to the goal line on third down and they hit the fullback in the flat. We practiced that play and it just got away from them. Hats off to Casey. They caught in spots where we were a little weak and with some injuries, too. But that is sports and part of playing football,” Fulton said.
Both teams battled for possession from that point, but Casey finally took control of the line and on a long drive Washburn scored his third touchdown with 7:25 left in the game. The PAT again went through the uprights and the hosts led 21-6.
Newton did not give up by any means. Showing determination on the tough night, the Eagles Jacob Stanley scored from the 9-yard line on a pass and run play where he turned on the afterburners to race past a defender to the goal line. There was only 1:38 left in the fourth and Newton fans were cheering for a comeback.
A successful 2-point play would have put the Eagles in striking distance to tie or win the game after a successful short kickoff to produce a fumble recovery.
The play failed and the score stood at 21-6 for Casey. Moments later, a short kickoff went out of bounds near midfield and Warriors had final possession to run out the clock.
The Eagles compiled 179 total yards on offense with 96 yards rushing shared by different runners and 83 yards through the air with Meinhart and Jeremy Eckl gaining most of those yards on receptions. On defense, the leaders were Meinhart with three solos and three assists, plus his interception. Trenton Hance seemed to be everywhere that night with three solos and 12 assists.
Sam Volk left the game early due to an injury, and Adam Bridges was banged up later in the game.
The Eagles are now 1-2 this season. Coach Fulton said they have the backs to the wall to gain the playoffs if they face another loss. Newton hosts Lawrenceville on Friday, Sept. 20.