Newton County riding win streak

By By Rocky Higginbotham/The Meridian Star
DECATUR Around these parts, folks are talking about the future of Newton County football, and one can hardly blame them.
After all the Cougars, after losing a batch of seniors, are starting 10 sophomores this season but find themselves riding an eight-game winning streak and playing in the state quarterfinals.
But according to NCHS head coach Jeff Breland, his team is more concerned with the present than the future.
Newton County, 9-2 on the year, will hit the road Friday when the Cougars travel to Tylertown for a Class 3A South State semifinal contest. Kickoff between the host Chiefs and Cougars is set for 7:30 p.m.
Last year, in Breland's first season as the Cougars' head coach, Newton County rolled to 11 straight victories before a second-round loss at home to Magee. But last year's squad was chock full of seniors, the nucleus of which is now at East Central Community College.
That meant starting over. But apparently, no one told the Cougars, who shook off a 1-2 start to again capture the Division 5-3A crown.
One of the few senior Cougars is fullback Germaine Smith, who started the final five games last season. This year, Smith has exactly 999 yards heading into the Tylertown game, and four times this season, he has teamed with tailback Darryl Mapp to rush for more than 100 yards. Mapp has 984 yards.
The Cougars also rely on junior quarterback Brian McDonald, a transfer from Newton County Academy. McDonald also has a chance to reach a milestone Friday, as he has tossed for 914 yards this season. But Breland says the way his signal-caller runs the offense is a bigger key.
The Cougars' offense was just enough last week in Newton County's 7-0 win over Collins, a squad which left a big impression on Breland.
Newton County will face more of the same Friday when the Cougars take on the Division 8-3A champion Chiefs. Tylertown, one of the state's largest Class 3A schools, has fluctuated between 3A and 4A during the last decade and has enjoyed success on both levels.
Breland said his team will leave just after lunch Friday and eat in Brookhaven before heading on to Tylertown which looks to be around a three-hour trip from Decatur.
If it does, the Cougars may get another chance at Magee next week. Should Newton County beat Tylertown, the Cougars would either host Magee or travel to Wilkinson County.
Rocky Higginbotham is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rhigginbotham@meridianstar.com.

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