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Critical game for Cougars, Panthers

CRITICAL GAME FOR COUGARS, PANTHERS

How important is the second divisional game of the season? If you ask Quitman High School or Newton County High School’s coaches, it’s very important, at least this season. Both Quitman (2-5, 0-1) and Newton County (2-5, 0-1) lost their divisional openers last week, so when the two square off at Quitman Friday, both will be looking to not fall almost hopelessly behind in the Region 5-4A standings. “One of us is going to be behind the eight-ball if we don’t win this week,” Newton County head coach Steve Bynum said. “It’s sad to say early in district play, but if you start out 0-2 in district, it’s nearly impossible to get yourself in the playoffs, because you have to start counting on other people to help you, so there’s pressure on both of us as far as that goes.” Quitman head coach Steve Bynum said he felt his team didn’t show up with the kind of effort it needed to in last week’s 20-0 loss to West Lauderdale High School, and all of a sudden, it makes Friday’s game that much more pivotal. “It’s crucial for us to come out and play well,” Bynum said. “No one wants to go down 0-2 in divisional play after the first two games. We’re both going to be fighting for a little bit of life.” Mitchell said Quitman has a lot of size up front on both offense and defense and fields a gifted group of linebackers. He also said freshman Panthers quarterback Jed Lewis could prove difficult to defend. “He can do it with his feet and arm,” Mitchell said. “He’ll present a challenge if we push him out of the pocket, because he can hurt you with his feet. We’re going to try to pick our poison and see how that comes. We would probably rather he beat us with his arm than his feet — we want to try to keep him in front of us.” Bynum also noted Newton County’s size all over the field and their ground-and-pound style of play. “They like to run downhill,” Bynum said. “Don’t get me wrong, they have a couple of quick guys they like to get the ball to on the edges, but to beat them, you’re going to have to be physical. That’s what they’ve had the most success with.” Mitchell said the biggest key for his Panthers would be offensive success, especially as it pertains to time of possession. “Naturally, it’d be nice to contain (Lewis) by keeping him on the sideline by us having long drives on offense and finishing those drives — finishing them with points.” Kickoff is at 7 Friday night.