As of press time for this newspaper, we have not heard of any heart attacks caused by Newton Eagles thrilling overtime victory over Robinson Friday night.
Pulse rates obviously soared as Marshall Tarr passed toward the end zone and Trenton Hance came down with the 2-pointer to secure the 15-14 win over the Maroons. Then Eagle players, coaches and fans roared in unison when the referee’s arms shot up to signal the game-winning score. And there was a rush onto the field by the Newton team with their coaches taking pride in the players not giving up and knowing what to do in overtime.
“The fun thing about that two-point conversion play was Trent Hance called that play. He called it and he caught it. What a great play by him,” Newton head coach Jason Fulton said after the game. “This game was all about heart and desire and wanting to get the job done. My heart goes out to these kids because they played so hard. The good Lord was on our side.”
It had been a defensive battle with some explosive plays by both teams, including Jacob Stanley racing 68 yards for pay dirt after hauling in a Payton Birch pass in the first quarter. That touchdown was the lone score for much of the game. Robinson’s Tyler Beard also produced some long runs on a night where he picked up 182 yards and a second-half touchdown that tied the game at 7 apiece.
Robinson came out in the first half without consistency on offense. That would eventually change with the performances of Beard and quarterback Wes Jackson. They would lead an offensive effort that compiled 280 total yards, compared to Newton’s 134.
It was a hard-hitting contest, which fans from both schools expected with the traditional rivalry that dates back decades between Newton and Robinson. Fulton compared it the old days of the Apollo Conference when players left the field bruised and battered.
Fulton had said after the victory at Red Hill that Robinson was going to be a tough opponent. He was proven right as the Maroons never gave up and nearly pulled off a road victory.
“I looked at the game films and I knew they are coming back,” Fulton “They are tough and physical.”
Newton’s offense suffered a setback when an injury forced Birch out of the game in the first half. Tarr then took over as signal caller.
As hard as they tried, Newton could not get its running game going. After weeks with rushing yards measured by hundreds of yards, Newton runners managed only 58 on the ground. Adam Bridges picked up 29 yards against Robinson.
A series of turnovers, including interceptions and fumbles, kept both offenses out of the end zone for much of the game. Newton’s defense ramped up its efforts though the contest with key tackles during critical situations.
Hance led the defense on tackles with five solos and 12 assists. Jacob Wheat nailed a runner for a solo and collected eight assists. R.J. Lindemann had three solos and five assists, plus sack that pushed back a Robinson offensive drive.
When regulation time ended, the Maroons went on offense after the coin toss. They scored quickly and picked up the point-after kick, leading 14-7. In Illinois high school football, teams each have a shot to score from the 10-yard line until one squad comes out ahead at the end of an overtime period. There is no sudden death in the IHSA if the offenses are clicking in overtime.
The Eagles did not build up much confidence in their first attempts to score in overtime. Then Tarr hit Ben Meinhart with a pass from seven yards out for a touchdown. Fulton agreed they were going for the win instead of risking a second overtime.
Hance pushed for the two-point trickery that had been used in practice this year. When Tarr tossed the pass, Hance was like a man on a desert isle for a moment with Maroon defenders not reacting in time. He pulled in the pass and undoubtedly some people on the Newton courthouse square might been startled by the thunderous cheer that erupted from the city’s west side.
The Eagles are now 4-2 and on a three-game winning streak. A great position to be after the disappointing loss at Casey-Westfield in the third game. Fulton said the win over Robinson keeps his team in the playoff hunt. But the Homecoming game will bring a pack of wolves from Flora to Newton.
“I think every game is going to be tough. There’s no easy game for us in this conference. Even the Sullivan game, a non-conference one, was not easy by any means. This gives us a little bit more breathing room. Most important is we take one game at a time,” Fulton explained.