As the final seconds ticked off the clock on Friday at McDonald County High School, the feeling of jubilation on the sidelines for the East Newton Patriots was overwhelming.
For the first time since Sept. 10, 2010, the East Newton Patriots walked off the field with the score in their favor, snapping a 32-game losing streak with a 16-0 victory over McDonald County. No longer will that date continue to haunt the Patriots. It means nothing now.
It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from the shoulders of the team, coaches and fans.
“It felt good,” Patriots coach Seth Johnson said. It’s been a long time coming for those seniors. It felt good for the kids, coaches and parents. The win was good for everybody.”
Chew on this a moment: The win was, according to Johnson, the first for East Newton’s sophomores … ever.
“Most importantly, I’m proud of our seniors,” Johnson said. “They’ve stayed together for a long time and stayed true to themselves and stayed true to our program and only had one win in their time here to show for it. But it was really good for our sophomores. They’ve never won a game, ever. Not in PeeWee, junior high. Never. It was a big deal for them and for everybody.”
The Patriots got on the board early in a rather unconventional style. After pinning the Mustangs deep in their own territory on fourth down, a bad snap on a punt attempt sailed out of the back of the end zone for a safety to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead with 3:45 left in the first quarter. The score remained 2-0 at the end of the quarter, but the Patriots scored quickly in the second quarter as Rocky Liveoak plunged in from five yards to make it 9-0. Liveoak’s touchdown put the punctuation on a 13-play, 56-yard drive one series after turning the ball over on a fumble deep in Mustangs territory.
“The offense put up some points and did enough to win,” Johnson said. “But we still had a lot of blown opportunities. A lot of chances to get more points and build on our lead that we didn’t capitalize on.”
The Patriots fumbled in the red zone twice, but their defense bailed them out of those mistakes with outstanding play. They held the Mustangs to just over 100 total yards of offense in the game.
“The defense played real well,” Johnson said. “They held (the Mustangs) well.”
East Newton (1-5) capitalized on another special teams snafu in the third quarter and turned it into points when Ross Nagle plunged into the end zone from three yards out to make it 16-0 with 8:35 left in the period. The defense held down the fort from there.
For the most part, we were looking at small victories there in the early going, but the win was the most important thing,” Johnson said. “We didn’t care if it was by one point or 40 points. We wanted the win and that was the most important thing.”
This win could go a long way toward not only turning around the program, but the season as well, according to Johnson.
“It really kind of revamps you here midway through the season,” he said. “We’re closing in on the final stretch. It’s really what we needed to kind of kick-start us and revamp us. Obviously after a win it kind of puts a little added hop in your step.”
The Patriots host Cassville next week, while the Mustangs travel to Marshfield.