Through five weeks, Newton find itself in a familiar position -- trying to navigate a road to the playoffs with a 2-3 record.
It hasn't worked out the last two seasons, but something about this Eagles team tells head coach Jason Fulton that this year could be different.
The Eagles have played the top three teams in the conference -- Lawrenceville, Casey-Westfield and Robinson -- closer than any team that faced all three in the first five weeks.
The Maroons had outscored opponents 110-19 in three wins, but Newton played them into double overtime on Friday. Two failed field goal attempts kept the Eagles from winning in a 20-14 loss.
Fulton is in his eighth year (27-42) and the Eagles haven't made the playoffs since 2007.
Q: How are you recovering from the overtime loss against Robinson?
A: At this point, it's Sunday and it's time to move on. We have Flora this week in a must-win game for us and we have to be prepared. The coaches met today and we're moving ahead. We're looking at the mistakes we made against Robinson and trying to correct those.
That game kind of reminded me of a good, old-fashioned Apollo Conference game, back in the day, between Robinson and Newton. It had that kind of vibe -- well played on both sides. From this point on, we just hope we can move on and hopefully learn from what just happened.
Q: Between the blocked field goal in regulation and missed field goal in overtime, which hit you the hardest?
A: The first one in regulation. We were in a good situation. It was a 26- or 27-yarder -- well within (Brock Mammoser's) range. It was blocked, and I don't know if the ball didn't get placed quite right but you could tell something wasn't right when he kicked it.
The overtime one hurts a little more for the simple fact that we'd already stopped them on defense. We knew that was definitely a makeable kick for him. He just missed it by a little bit. But Brock's an excellent kicker. I'd put him right back in that same situation again.
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Q: Your team played Lawrenceville, Casey-Westfield and Robinson tough in the losses. What are you taking away from those games?
A: We've proven that we can play with the elite in our conference. Every game has been close and down to the wire. We went double overtime with Robinson. We had the ball late against Casey with a chance to drive and tie the game. We had a lead against Lawrenceville with 14 minutes to go in the game. We've probably been playing our best football against the top three and yet we've lost.
Q: Before the season started, where did you hope you would be after these five games, knowing it was a tough schedule up front?
A: If you would've reversed our record to 3-2, I would've been pretty happy. We're not far off from that. It makes our road a little bit tougher, though. You have some games coming up that you know you can compete, but they become must-wins. I really felt like we were a 7-2, 6-3 or 5-4 team and, even though we can't get 7-2, it can really go in any of those directions. But we don't want to go the opposite way.
Q: What are your impressions of the conference's top three teams after playing each of them? Who is the toughest?
A: Lawrenceville has proven it right now because they're on top and they might have an edge because they won at Casey. But (these teams) are so different with how they do things. Casey's style is a lot different than Lawrenceville. Lawrenceville and Robinson are more similar but still different in personnel. I'd say Lawrenceville gets the nod right now, but to me they're all three right there together. They're so good at what they do.
Q: So were you surprised by Lawrenceville beating Casey?
A: A little bit because it was at Casey. Now, if you go down to Lawrenceville where they're used to playing on their turf, it's a little different. Casey has had a lot of momentum at their place.
All four of (our teams), plus Marshall and Olney, we're all pretty similar. The top three kind of get the edge, a little above the rest of us, but it's a really tight race right now.
Q: You're in the same predicament you've been in for three years now, starting 2-3. You haven't made the playoffs either of the past two times. Do you see three more wins this year?
A: I do, and I don't make guarantees. It's a possibility. It's still out there. It won't be an easy road. It's the same with Olney and Marshall. They're probably looking at us thinking we're a team they can beat. We have to learn to rise to the occasion. The last two years at 4-5, we're so close to make the playoffs. We have to figure out a way to get over that hump.