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Statesboro faces dangerous Westlake team

    There’s an old axiom you’re only as good as your last game.
    If that’s the case then Statesboro High School could be in trouble tonight at it opens defense of its Class AAAA state championship against Westlake. Game time at Womack Field is 7:30 p.m.
    The Blue Devils (9-1) were shockingly shut out, 20-0, in their season finale by Ware County while Westlake (5-5) rolled to an easier than expected 41-7 win over Banneker.
    The loss snapped a 24-game win streak win for Coach Steve Pennington’s team. If there is anything positive to come out of a loss it is that  hopefully it served as a wake-up call.
    And, if that didn’t then watching film on the Lions this week certainly should have furrowed a few brows.  
    It would be easy to caught looking past a team with a 5-5 record, but Westlake is not your ordinary .500 team. The Fulton County school is only 15 years old, but it is one of the most heavily visited schools in the state by those who know where to find football talent, namely college coaches.
    Coach Dallas Allen is the only coach in the history of the school. He owns a 104-60 record. The Lions are a perennial playoff team and produce as many or more Division I-A players as any school in the state.
    This year is no exception. Quarterback Cameron Newton has committed to Florida and wide receiver Tim Pope is a South Carolina recruit.
    Newton is 6-foot-6 and weighs 230 pounds. He has a 4.51 seconds time in the 40 and completed 60 per cent of his passes for nearly 2,000 yards this season. He also ran for over 1,000 yards. Scouting services rank him as the second best quarterback in the state behind Josh Nesbit of Greene County who has committed to Georgia Tech.
    As a junior on a 9-3 team that advanced to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs Newton threw for 2,189 yards and ran for 638.
    The future Gator is an excellent athlete. If he wasn’t playing football he would be a prospect in basketball. Newton was the starting power forward on the Westlake team that reached the Class AAA title game in basketball last year and is considered one of the top players in the metro Atlanta area.
    Pope is a tall, rangy receiver who is usually bigger that most of the corners he sees and is very physical. His competition every day in practice is cornerback Addison Williams who has also committed to play for the Gamecocks.
    Being labeled an “athlete” doesn’t bother Newton who is confident he will play quarterback at Florida despite the presence of heralded freshman Tim Tebow.
    Allen said he went through a similar situation with former Lions standout and current Cleveland Browns safety Sean Jones, who was recruited to Georgia as a quarterback.
    With David Greene and D.J. Shockley competing for playing time Jones was switched to defensive back under then UGA defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. He developed into a second-round draft pick.
    Producing NFL players is nothing new for Allen and Westlake. The school was honored by the NFL last year for having more active players in the NFL than any other high school in the nation.
    In addition to Jones other ex-Lions currently in the NFL are linebacker Keith Adams with Philadelphia, tackle Ian Allen with the Eagles, linebacker Keyaron Fox with Kansas City, cornerback Pacman Jones with Tennessee and safety Anthony Mitchell with Cincinnati.
    “It is up to Cam whether he wants to be a quarterback,” said Allen. “There are athletes who happen to play quarterback, but in Cam’s case he is a quarterback who happens to be an athlete.”
    Four of Westlake’s losses came by a total of 14 points. They lost to Whitewater, 17-14, on a last minute field goal and lost to Northgate, 14-13, after missing an extra point. Two other losses came to Class AAAAA schools Tri-Cities and Douglas by a total of 10 points.
    The only school to win decisively against the Lions was unbeaten Creekside which posted a 28-13 victory.
    One of Newton’s better games of the season came in the loss to Whitewater when he completed 19 of 24 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, hitting 11 passes in a row at one point. In that loss the Lions were plagued by turnovers and two missed field goals.
    Needing to beat Banneker last week to get into the playoffs the Lions turned in one of their better efforts of the season.
    The Lions limited Banneker to 30 yards on its first 26 plays while Newton teamed with Deshon Lawrence on a 65-yard scoring strike on the first play of the game. Newton got the second score of the game on a 44-yard run, and the Lions were home free.
    It will now be up to the Devils to get them back in the cage. That could prove to be a formidable task.

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