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Newton's Gomez, Ruth, Ramos recap summer camp and joint scrimmage
Three Railer playmakers spoke on the team's progression ahead of the fall.
Two weeks ago today, the Newton football team was kicking off its week-long camp at Fischer Field Stadium, which was capped by a multi-team scrimmage sponsored by Bethel College that Friday. In attendance for said scrimmage were the Railers, El Dorado, Junction City, and Hesston.
This marked the final action for the team in pads before training camp starts in August. For Newton, it was a much-needed opportunity to build chemistry after staff turnover and a class full of weapons lost to graduation.
“I was hyped to play with our new teammates — some teammates who weren’t on varsity last year,” junior defensive back Niko Ramos said. “And some new coaches, our new defensive coordinator, [Ray] Boese, and [Taylor] Durham, our new linebackers coach. It was anticipated the whole week.”
Boese joins Greg Slade’s staff at Newton after succeeding Slade as the head coach at Rose Hill from 2013 through 2017. Following that stint, Boese joined Slade’s staff at Haysville-Campus. The two now reunite again in AVCTL-I. Durham was on the Railer staff under previous head coach Chris Jaax.
The two new (or semi-new in Durham’s case) coaches will work closely with Ramos, who enters the upcoming season fresh off a breakout campaign at safety in which he led his team in interceptions.
“The whole week, it was pretty much just focused on what our main defense is going to be,” Ramos said. “There are some things that changed from last season and other things are the exact same. … This week was just getting our checks in — the different sets and the way we align to them.”
At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Ramos displayed an innate ability to snuff out opposing offensive plays throughout 2022 and utilized his quickness — he boasts a 4.38-second pro agility in his Twitter bio — to create turnovers.
In 2023, he wants to see his name etched into history. “The number one goal [for me] is getting that interception record,” Ramos said. “I was so close last year, I missed some opportunities … but that’s for sure a goal of mine, getting five interceptions or more.
“I also really want to improve my tackling,” he continued. “I didn't have a tackle for loss last season. I reacted too slowly against the run, but I've watched a ton of film. It feels like everything has slowed down. … “This time last year, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to play safety or quarterback. The jump I’ll have from last season to this season, I think it’ll be insane.”
On offense, Newton finds itself challenged by youth and inexperience — aside from the most important position in football, that is. Senior Colby Gomez is back for his third consecutive season as the starting signal-caller. And like Ramos, he felt the excitement of being back in pads at Fischer.
“Honestly, it felt great,” Gomez said about the camp. “I got back out there on the field with the team. I’d say it definitely feels a bit different than last year being a senior and all but as far as this summer with the team, it’s been going well. I feel like the team is a lot closer, with the connections we’ve made.”
Last season saw Gomez’s role morph considerably each week as Slade implemented a run-heavy attack predicated on misdirection midway through the schedule. The shift took considerable responsibility off the quarterback’s shoulders in the box score but magnified his selflessness and leadership.
“Going into this camp, I think we were a lot more prepared on what the mission was,” Gomez said. “[Slade] made it clear to us that there are things we need to look at before the season. I felt like things went a lot more smoothly — getting some of those flaws worked on and recognizing our strengths and weaknesses … so we can continue doing the things we’re good at.”
Anchoring the trenches in front of Gomez is fellow senior Nick Ruth. At tackle, the 6-foot-5 260-pounder thrived in the aforementioned shift in offensive philosophy, earning himself all-league honors. Prior to July’s camp, he refamiliarized himself with playing in pads, attending college camps across Kansas to ensure his final campaign is as sharp as possible.
“One of the big things [Slade] drove home was that we have to move the line of scrimmage,” Ruth said. “Especially since we have a pretty young unit — I'm the only returner — we have a lot of juniors and seniors playing, but they’re just now getting their first experience with varsity.
“Discipline was also a big one,” he added. “A lot of guys, you know it’s summer, they’re running their mouths and getting a little antsy, but Slade likes to drive home that we win with discipline.”
That discipline will be vital for a host of new faces that take over at key positions for the Railers, most notably at wide receiver. Newton lost a majority of its 2022 production when Isaac Klug and Camden Carr walked the stage before taking their talents to Baker University and Sterling College.
“The younger guys, I’m seeing a lot of good things from them,” Gomez said. “I think we're finding a good way to put them in positions to excel and work on the stuff they need to get better at. … They’re attacking the weight room, which is something that we really need, to put on size. I like what I’m seeing.”
With that continuous growth across the program comes a newfound sense of calmness for this pair of seniors. If you talk to either of them, one common theme presents itself above all else: it’s about winning.
“For me, I’ve really just been trying to figure out all parts of the offense, who we have at each position,” Gomez said. “I want to help where I’m needed and be there for my guys. … We're looking for a better record than last year, obviously. I think we have a lot of winnable games.
“And the different environments we're gonna be at, we have home games against some of those tougher teams, which will be more exciting, we have a game at Riverfront — I just want to be solid for my team.”
Ruth echoed his quarterback’s sentiment: “We want to put on a show.”
Brett is a Communication Arts major at Bethel College, Editor-in-Chief of The Bethel Collegian, and Newton (KS) High School football beat writer. You can reach him via email and follow him on Twitter.