2020 Fall Preview: East Newton Football

By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

To say Kyle Wood’s first season at East Newton was a success would be an understatement, despite the 2-9 record.

The Patriots had gone winless in three of the last four seasons and entered 2019 on a 22-game losing streak.

Not only was East Newton able to end that skid, but four of the Pats’ nine losses came by seven points or fewer. Two of the remaining five losses came at the hands of the Class 2 or Class 3 runner-up.

Furthermore, East Newton picked up its first playoff win since 2007, a 21-20 road upset of Houston.

Wood is excited to see what Year Two brings to the program, especially from the consistency standpoint.

“I love the Big 8 and have a massive respect for its teams and coaches. I have coached in it for 14 years now at a few different schools. I was fortunate enough to learn from some great coaches what it takes to be a successful Big 8 program. While we aren’t there yet, we took some really important strides last year to get there. I think all of our players were proud of what we were able to do last year, and no one was more proud of than me.

“We talked all the time about competing each and every week and what that takes in a conference like the Big 8 West. It was definitely a process, but we slowly started figuring out how to practice, how to prepare all week long, and we started seeing it pay off with breaking the 25-game losing streak. We were beating Cassville at half, played Seneca close, and had a chance to tie the game with less than minute to go against Springfield Catholic. We continued to improve each and every week. Our kids never quit and it paid off the second half of the Houston game. The Houston win was huge. The school and East Newton community were a buzz about football for the first time in a long time. That win gave us a chance to recruit some more athletes that we really think will help us this next year. Our goal is to build a program that competes and fights and does whatever it takes to be a successful member of the Big 8 week in and week out.”

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This fall will look different as East Newton returns just five starters from last year’s edition.

Seniors Noah Brashers and Quintyn Lewis will anchor the defense from the linebacker and safety positions respectively.

Statistically, last year’s defense was the program’s best in more than a decade, and Brashers and Lewis will be tasked in trying to keep the unit performing at a high level this fall.

“Noah had a 100 total tackles last year,” said Wood. “We are going to be looking for him to continue the great he has to get to football. He needs to be a leader and pass that determination on to the rest of our defense.

“Quintyn really found his stride about halfway through the year. He played a few different roles on defense in the secondary. We look for him to play free safety and to be a vocal leader in the back half. We also look for him to be a big play threat offensively.”

Junior Collin Farley and sophomore Mason Hailey will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. With both weighing 220 pounds, they’ll bring plenty of size and physicality.

“Collin started all year at center for us and played almost all defensive line positions at one time or another,” said Wood. “This year we will move him to a guard and ask him to be our main guy to play nose defensively. Collin has worked his tail off in the weight room and works as hard as any kid we have. We look for Collin to be a vocal leader and help the young linemen understand stuff better.

“Mason got thrown into a starting spot on the offensive line last year as a freshman. He was a little wide eyed to start, but never backed down to anything we asked him to do. By the end of the year he was starting both ways for us. He has worked hard in the weight room and has continued to mature. We look forward to him gaining a bigger role on both sides of the ball.”

A player to keep an eye on either side of the ball is junior Kaden Burbridge. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound bowling ball doesn’t exactly have a position. He could line up nearly anywhere on the field. Regardless, he’ll be a difference maker.

“Kaden started at guard towards the end of the season for us,” said Wood. “He has a role for us up front, we are not sure if that will be a guard or our H back, he is physical and athletic enough to play booth. Defensively, we will look for him to help us in the linebacking corps.”

From there, it’ll be nearly an entirely new cast of characters for the Patriots. In some cases, there will be faces that weren’t on the football field at all last year.

Senior Tanner Youngblood is a basketball standout that is currently in the battle for the starting quarterback spot. Classmates Kyson Lahman and Ethan Brummett are in the same situation and will look to be two-way impact players after not playing football last year.

Junior Elijah Mohica, sophomores Dominic Shaw and Xavier Long will figure into the offensive line equation.

Senior Kaden Evey and junior Nathan Evey, his little brother, will be in contention for backfield reps, as well as starting spots at linebacker.

Senior Grady Nimmo and junior Andrew Rupert are fighting for spots along the defensive front and tight end.

There will be several underclassmen competing for reps at the skill positions as well.

Juniors Charlie Yang, Barrett Burkey and Matthew Knight will be looking for spots at running back or receiver, as well as providing defensive backfield depth. Classmate Shane Rawlins is involved in the quarterback battle as well.

Sophomores Roley Downum, Jack Xiong and Ty Bowman will all look for backfield reps, as well as defensive playing time.

This fall will have a different feel, but Wood is hoping to build on the momentum and foundation established last year. He’s also hoping more familiarity with his system and expectations will benefit the program.

“This will be the first time our kids will run the same offense and defense for two consecutive years in their high school careers,” said Wood. “I think that knowledge and understanding is going to really be huge. We will still teach things the same but we anticipate the learning curve to be much quicker. Our kids know what to expect from us as coaches. They understand our expectations and what we are about. Year Two is huge for us. We don’t want to take a step back, we want to build off of the good things we did last year.”

East Newton will open the 2020 season at Reeds Spring on Aug. 28. The Pats will play their home opener the following Friday against defending Big 8 champion Mount Vernon.

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