TAMPA — Despite winning its season opener against Tampa Bay Tech, due in large part to a strong defensive effort, Newsome lost five fumbles. Travis Hempstead, who had multiple turnovers, admits he had trouble holding onto the ball.
So in the days leading up to Newsome's matchup with Gaither, coach Ken Hiscock drilled into his players the importance of ball security. Every time Hempstead carried the ball during practice, he did so with two hands. If he fumbled, he was ordered to do 15 up downs.
On Friday at Cowboy Stadium, that extra discipline paid off. Hempstead had three touchdowns and 207 of Newsome's 363 total yards, leading Newsome to a 38-7 win against Gaither.
"We lost a starting fullback last year, and I'm just trying to show them they can count on me," an overwhelmed Hempstead said after the game. "I started off rough last week. I've been working hard, and I've been doing it for this team. That's why I'm here."
Junior quarterback Spencer Preston, making his second varsity start, prides himself on putting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. On Friday, that's exactly what he did.
Newsome fell behind early, allowing a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Gaither's Malik Huff 18 seconds into the game. It was the only time the Cowboys reached the end zone all night. Newsome kicked a field goal on the following drive, but Hempstead scored a pair of touchdowns, on 8- and 17-yard runs, before halftime to give the Wolves a 17-7 lead at the break.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, Preston orchestrated an impressive drive down field, capped by a Hempstead 25-yard touchdown dash.
Hempstead said Friday's performance was the best of his career. But more than anything, the senior running back was proud to prove that despite losing talented playmakers, the Wolves offense is a viable threat.
"I knew the team could do it," he said. "We lost the main players, but we gained some, too. We might not have the talent [of last year], but we're working hard."
College-bound quarterback Alex McGough is starting for the Cowboys for the third consecutive year, but Friday his experienced leadership was extremely limited by a scrappy Newsome defense. Six sacks, three from Brett Baker, negated any gains the Cowboys made on the ground.
Forced to replace some of his offensive stars from last season, Hiscock's Wolves may not have gotten the preseason attention he thinks they deserve. But as far as he's concerned, rankings and last year's stats don't mean a thing.
His team is off to a 2-0 start, and those are the only numbers that matters.
"We're just going to put on our cleats and put on our helmet and strap it up every day and go to work," Hiscock said, "get prepared, and be competitive out on the football field."