The veteran made it look like the Newton Eagles didn’t wait 504 days for football.
Junior wide receiver Ben Meinhart caught 8 receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns in Newton 19-0 victory against Red Hill at Chizevsky Field Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been a long time. It’s good to get back at it,” Meinhart said. “We were definitely excited. We were waiting for this for a while now.”
Senior Marshall Tarr converted a pass into a first down on fourth-and-two into as the Eagle extended Newton’s first possession. Tarr worked his magic again on another fourth down play on the same drive at the Red Hill 30 yard line. The speedy running back picked up four yards on a fourth-and-three, setting up a 26-yard touchdown reception by Meinhart on the ensuing play.
“A little bit. The butterflies were there definitely, but once we got out there playing, it felt like normal,” Meinhart said. “I just had a nine route and coach just relied on me to beat my guy and Aaron got me the ball.”
Senior Aaron Einhorn, playing football for the first time, stepped in at starting quarterback going 11-17 for for 124 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while contributing 66 yards rushing.
“Aaron who’s brand new and doesn’t know football like some of the others, he’s definitely learning on the go,” Newton head football coach Jason Fulton said, beaming about his quarterback. But he was great. He was tremendous for doing this. It was impressive.”
With under a minute to play in the first half and no timeouts remaining, the Eagles drove from their 22 to the Red Hill 19, behind an 11 yard run and 16 yard reception from Tarr and a 5 yard reception from Meinhart. Einhorn rambled for 24 yards getting gang tackled out of bounds.
The first year player, sprang back up, setting up a Frank Cucinella field goal attempt. The 29-yard field goal attempt sailed right, missing the uprights, and the Eagles took a six point lead at the half.
“He’s not a very big guy but it was cool to see him go out there and lower his shoulder and get back up like that,” Meinhart said.
Meanwhile, Red Hill couldn’t muster consistent offensive outside of three long runs from their option quarterback, Andrew Maxfield, was 3for-6 for 10 yards through the air with two interceptions. The Salukis ran 29 times for 142 yards led by Maxfield’s 57 yards.
“We really made sure we were ready for the game,” Fulton said. “We had two weeks to prep and make sure they’re all ready for the game. We made sure game prep was important.
Newton came into the second hal scoring on their first possession as Tarr skipped into the end zone untouched on a 3-yard-run.
Confusion on the ensuing two-point conversion pushed the Eagles back 15 yards while Meinhart’s scamper to convert it failed, a yard short, taking a 12-0 lead.
“That two-point conversion, they got a little confused,” Fulton said “They should have just let them go. They had it ready to go.”
On Red Hills first possession of the third quarter, Newton’s Jacob Rice blitzed untouched up the middle, on a third-and-11 sacking Maxfield, forcing the Salukis to punt.
Newton would give the ball back right back to Red Hill with a Maxfield interception of Einhorn, the second of the day for the Eagle.
Red Hill would face a third-and-25 from their 44 yard line, with Meinhart stepping in front of a Maxfield pass.
Meinhart, put the icing on the cake, took a 30-yard reception from Einhorn grabbing the ball from in-between the defender’s hand for a touchdown with just under two minutes to play. Senior Kaleb Probst came on to finish off Red Hill with the point after, extending the Eagle lead to 19-0.
“He’s done a really good job stepping in,” Meinhart said. “It’s just huge for him to come out here and get his first win when it’s tough to do especially when you haven’t played football before.”
Fulton like what he saw from his junior receiver.
“He’s remarkable. Hes a tough kid. He’s one of the best around here. He’s good,” he said.
He wasn’t so sure that there would be football though.
“The not knowing and just the, year of not knowing. Not knowing anything. We didn’t know if we were going to play. We didn’t know if it was going to happen,” Fulton said. “We had our last 7-on-7 on October 31st and walked off the field. I really didn’t think we were going to play.”
Fulton said his priority is the players’ safety even without optimal time in the weight room.
“We got a little bit of weight room time, but not enough. I was worried about that. I was worried about injuries so our kids are prepared,” he said. “I mean, this is about our kids. I want to make sure they’re safe.”
But to be back, in one word, Fulton is “thrilled”.
“Thrilled. Thrilled to be back. Thrilled that our kids got to play. Happy for the kids,” he said. “Obviously it was great to win. The most important thing is these kids get to participate and play football, especially for the seniors for the last time.”
He said the while the defense is a strength, they have to continue to get better and the offense needs to be build on their success from Saturday’s win.
“We have to continue to build offensively, Fulton said. “Our defense is a strength, but it’s going to be a challenge to make sure we’re doing the right things on the defensive side. The offense has to get better, but that’s going to because we have such inexperienced guys who are going to get better. At some point we’re going to say six games isn’t enough, we want to keep playing.”