James Poche rolled through the East Jefferson defense for 155 yards and three touchdowns Friday night, leading Newman to a 38-21 victory.
The senior running back was the Greenies’ workhorse, rushing 20 times and adding three receptions for 24 yards.
But he wasn’t a one-man wrecking crew, he said.
“Really I got to give all the credit to them,” Poche said, referring to his teammates on the offensive line. “They’re just making the way and I’m just reading it. I’m just running behind them and I got to give props to them.”
Nonetheless, Newman coach Nelson Stewart said he was impressed with his running back.
“James Poche and that line took numbers and they were just pounding it between the tackles with physical downhill runs,” Stewart said.
The Greenies were able to capitalize on two second-half fumble recoveries, which gave them the ball back with the game tied at 21.
Late in the third quarter, junior linebacker Liam Rowan shot through the middle of the offensive line and forced a Warriors fumble, setting up Newman in the red zone.
Sam Moses nailed a 30-yard field goal to beak the tie 24-21.
“So critical, so critical,” Stewart said of Newman’s takeaways. “Liam Rowan blowing up the middle really ignited that wave of emotion.”
The Greenies (3-0) sealed the game with 6:42 left, forcing another fumble.
Poche responded with a huge 56-yard run, then followed with a 2-yard plunge to extend the lead to 31-21.
The Warriors did have success on the ground. Senior running back Zach Wiedow totaled 128 yards, but Stewart’s defensive stops were key.
“The defense — we said, ‘Control the fire.’ We were a little reckless in the first half,” Stewart said. “They played physical, they played smart.”
East Jefferson coach Frank Allelo lamented the Warriors’ late turnovers, in addition to a handful of crippling penalties.
“We’ve just got to grind harder,” he said. “I just have to make sure they know that penalties are the destroyers. We can’t be having first-and-20 and penalties that take plays back.”
East Jeff (1-2) opens District 8-5A play against Landry-Walker next week.
The Greenies face undefeated Berwick.
“Can’t wait, can’t wait,” Poche said. “I know the team can’t either. We just have to be never satisfied and just keep grinding. We just have to wakeup tomorrow and just act like it’s a new week and act like we’re 0-0 again.”
Stewart, for his part, said he’s looking to ride the momentum.
“I think you refocus fast,” he said. “Berwick is a really good football team. The biggest thing for us is to maintain focus. The momentum is there. We’ve been really good about focus and maturity.”