LITHIA — After losing to Bloomingdale in the season opener, Newsome had won seven straight, matching the longest win streak in program history.
The seeds for this recent success were planted a year ago. The Wolves, 1-4 at the time, stunned Sarasota Riverview. That helped turn things around with the Wolves winning three of their final five to close out 2018.
On Friday, Newsome faced the Rams again, this time with a lot more at stake. Both teams were undefeated in Class 8A, District 8. The winner not only would take over sole possession of first place, but take a huge step toward wrapping up the title.
The Wolves’ win streak — and likely their district title hopes — ended with a 20-14 loss in a game that was played in a downpour throughout the second half.
Last season, Newsome jumped out to 31-point first-quarter lead and held on in a wild 51-45 victory over Sarasota Riverview. The Wolves won by sticking to a conservative but effective game plan that grinded out more than 300 yards on the ground.
Newsome did not deviate much from that this season. The Wolves gave a steady diet of carries to their top two backs — Jason Albritton and Landon White.
The difference was that the Rams were ready for it. They stacked the line of scrimmage with defenders, stuffing all those runs up the middle early on.
And Sarasota Riverview’s offense was not as stagnant. It showed right away.
The Rams (6-2, 4-0) struck first when Tray Hall ran 28 yards up the middle for a touchdown. After a failed extra point, the Rams led 6-0. In the second quarter, Sarasota Riverview added to the lead when Sean White connected with Omari Hayes on a 46-yard touchdown pass. After another failed extra point, the Rams were up 12-0.
Typically, the Wolves’ ball-control offense is not built to rally from large deficits. But Newsome stuck to its roots, gaining yards — and first downs — on an impressive drive just before the half.
It ended with Nick Felice hitting Deandre Perez on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in the second quarter to cut it to 12-7. The Rams responded on their opening possession of the third quarter. Tray Hall finished the drive with his second touchdown run of the night, this one from 3 yards. Sarasota Riverview was successful on a 2-point conversion to make it 20-7.
The Wolves (7-1, 3-1) refused to go away. They answered with Jack Arnone scoring on a 3-yard run that cut it to 20-14.
On the Rams’ next possession, they converted on third down three times to keep the drive alive. It ended with Newsome’s Ryan Reel pouncing on a fumble in the final three minutes.
That gave the Wolves one more chance to pull ahead. But the drive ended with a turnover on downs.