LITHIA — The Alafia River runs right between Durant and Newsome high schools, making way for what has become known as the Alafia River rivalry. But on both sides of the river, defense reigns.
That much was clear early in this year’s bout, as Newsome scored the lone points of the first half Friday night on a long passing play to take a six-point lead into halftime.
While the Cougars made a game of it after the break, Durant mistakes and the Wolves’ stout defense paved the way for Newsome’s 17-7 victory.
“I think any time Newsome and Durant play, it’s always a war. We play each other every single year, so everybody knows everybody’s tendencies,” Wolves coach Christian Yockey said. “We tried to put a little bit of a wrinkle in to kind of spread them out and catch them with some big plays.”
After a scoreless first quarter, quarterback Christian Bishop soon hit Matthew Connally with a 55-yard touchdown pass to get the only points of the first half. In the second, the Wolves picked up where they left off. A strong kickoff return from Andrew Dempsey put Newsome (3-1) in good field position, and Bishop had another long touchdown pass, this time connecting with J.C. Roque for the 45-yard score.
“The safety bit down on the fake run, and I just took a few steps back and saw Matthew,” Bishop said of his first touchdown pass. “He’s very fast, has excellent speed. I just threw it 40 yards through the air, and he got right under the ball and caught it.”
Immediately after going down two scores, the Cougars (3-1) took a page out of Newsome’s book, as quarterback Marcus Miguele threw a 61-yard pass to Zaevion Jordan to set up his eventual 3-yard quarterback keeper.
The Wolves only had one more big play — a 62-yard run from running back Jason Albritton that gave way to kicker Ryan Eckley’s 27-yard field goal.
Meanwhile, try as the Cougars might to even the score, the Wolves’ defense made big plays when it had to. Cornerback Amiir Austin, for instance, had two interceptions in the end zone.
It’s a unit with which Bishop is proud to go to battle.
“My defense held the offense very well. Their offense has been scoring a lot, and we held them to seven the entire game,” he said, clutching the painted “Alafia River Rivalry” canoe paddle, exchanged by the coaches at the end of the game. “Our defense is lock down.”