Newman-Palma lives up to hype

Newman/Palma was one of the best high school games I’ve seen recently.

Both offenses moved the ball all night and there were plenty of big plays. Jeff Badger is one tough running back. He scored three TDs and had about 10 tackles from his linebacker spot. He also rushed for 130 yards. Palma’s strategy was to take away the passing lanes, which enabled Wright to run free most of the night. He rushed for 105 yards in the first half and scored the first Newman TD on a 64-yard run.

Palma didn’t have the skill players Newman had, although halfback Justin Olivarria was as good as advertised. He rushed for 190 yards and caught 4 passes for 81 yards. And it was clear how Palma QB David Fales got a scholarship to Nevada-Reno. He had a sweet touch and great presence. He was 17-of-21 passing for 222 yards.

Few high school teams can cover a lot of yards in a short time, because they lack sophisticated passing games. It’s why Newman can mount game-winning drives, like Friday’s, when they got the ball on their own 28 and only 2:07 to go. If there hadn’t been three drops, Newman may have scored before the last play of the game.

On the final play, with Newman scrambling to the line of scrimmage because they had no timeouts, the play given Wright was a draw play. But he figured out there was no one left in the back field, rolled out and found a wide open Jack James in the back of the end zone. Again, there are so many options, chances are one will play off. A PAT kick miss doomed Palma and their coach admitted after the game, kicking has been a problem area so far and their snapper was injured.

The one area that Newman looked vulnerable at times was defensive line where at times they lack size. But in the fourth quarter, when they needed to slow down Olivarria they did with big plays from Jonathan Steele and Peter Pham, the 5-10, 205-pound nose tackle. Plus, the Newman linebackers — including Badger and Joe Ferguson — are very good.

This Newman team may not be as good as its 2006 state team, but it’s pretty good and probably going to get better. And wins against Central Catholic, Del Oro and Palma is a pretty fair accomplishment.

Now Newman just has to win in league. The next tests will be at Montgomery Oct. 24 and at Rancho Cotate on Halloween night.

Next year Newman will play Palma at Salinas. They should continue to meet. Both are very, very good programs.