By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
It’s been a slow climb for Newton County Academy.
The Generals have posted winning records in five out of coach Robert Roberts’ six seasons at the helm. But tonight’s trip to Wilkinson County Christian Academy for the MAIS Class A South State championship will be the Generals first trip this deep in the postseason in his tenure.
“We’ve got a good group of kids that got here about four or five years ago when we built a new weight room and they’ve just lived in there, working out a lot more than they used to,” Roberts said. “And after that we got to the first round and then the second round and now the third round.
“We’re just trying to get it on up there.”
That group of players are also on the verge of school history. Not only would a win lead to NCA’s first appearance in the state championship game, it would also set a new school record for wins. Last week’s triumph against Riverfield (La.) Academy pushed the Generals to an 8-4 mark, equaling the program’s best finish.
NCA also went 8-4 last season following a Cenla (La.) Christian forfeit after the season for the Generals’ season-ending defeat in the second round of the playoffs. The Generals were 8-3 in 2004 and 8-4 in 1993.
“It would mean a lot,” Roberts said. “We lost so many good guys off last year’s team and a really good running back in Dillon Williams. But all those guys we had coming back stayed here and worked hard. They’ve been here, working hard together like a team and it would mean a lot.
“To get this far, it already has. That’s made it a whole lot better this week, everybody’s been pumped. And it would mean so much to get there for the school and the football program, everybody.”
But for all that to arrive, NCA must first slow down the Rams and a stout rushing attack.
“They look good on tape,” Roberts said. “They lost early to Centreville and I hope our schedule’s strength makes us ready to go. We played some tough games and got whipped, but we’ve kept everybody healthy and we’re ready to go.
“They’ve got two good running backs and we’re going to try and stop the run game down. And we’ve been able to do that lately. It’s going to be hard and we’re going to have to be on our game to beat them.”
NCA counters with its own rugged running game spearheaded by a trio of running backs. Zack Meeks leads the way with 935 yards and nine touchdowns rushing, while Regan Reiss has added 826 yards and 13 touchdowns and Thomas Jones has produced 734 yards and six scores.