In a run-dominated football game, Newport High School ran farther and faster in a 35-7 season-opening victory over the Capital at Ingersoll Stadium.
The Knights of the Kingco League broke open a close game in the third quarter behind the fleet backfield tandem of Conner Baumann and Paul Wells.
Baumann had touchdown runs of 71 and 67 yards, and Wells – who gave Newport a 7-0 lead in the first half with a 64-yard fumble return for a TD – scored on 67-yard run.
The Cougars, who lost 27 seniors from its state 2A semifinal team of last year, made mistakes of inexperience that coach J.D. Johnson expects will be corrected.
“We know we battled for three quarters,” Johnson said. “We did some good things, but we made some little errors that caught up with us.
“We moved the ball up and down the field in the first half, but we couldn’t punch it in.”
Capital had good moments in the run game – Conner Kennedy racked up 115 yards on 25 carries – but the bigger Newport front exerted its dominance as the game wore on.
Baumann carried three times for only 9 yards and lost a fumble in the first half, but finished with 168 yards on eight carries. Wells picked up 83 yards on six carries.
Nkumbu Chisebuka closed the scoring for Newport with a 1-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter.
The only points of the first half came late in the second quarter on Capital’s only serious mistake of the half. A fumbled pitch was recovered by Wells, who scooped it up and sailed into the end zone.
Earlier, both teams had fruitless forays into the red zone.
Nine straight Capital running plays to open the game had the ball on the Newport 11, with Kennedy, Ryan Rieta and Jacob Johnson each contributing long gainers. At that point, quarterback Cody Jenkins was sacked on consecutive plays for a combined loss of 19 yards, and the Cougars punted it away.
Newport immediately moved from its own 20 inside the Cougars’ 20, with a diversified running attack from its pistol sets. But Baumann, the Knights’ top returning ball carrier, fumbled at the 19, and Cougars senior Michael Randall recovered.
Capital moved smoothly back down the field, with 13 straight running plays taking it deep into Newport territory. On a 4th-and-goal at the 4, the Cougars lined up in a swinging gate formation – a center, quarterback and lone back on the ball and the rest of the team lined up far left. Jenkins took the snap and worked his way to the one-foot line before being stopped.
In the third quarter, a 43-yard kickoff return by Brian Davidson set the Cougars up in Newport territory. A 13-yard pass from Jenkins to Jakob Racimo, and Kennedy’s runs of 14 and 9 yards led to Kennedy’s 5-yard touchdown run that cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Cougars got a 27-yard Rieta run from punt formation to keep a Cougars drive alive late in the third quarter. But the Knights stiffened and took over on downs, and Baumann made it hurt, cruising through a big hole for the first of his long scoring runs.