Bulldog fans had plenty to celebrate Friday night as New Albany had a sweet taste of victory over their rival, Ripley. Another impressive offensive effort helped to get the ‘Dawgs back in the game after falling 14-0 early.
“Defense came out and kind of put is in a bind. We felt like Ripley kept knocking us down, but the character of our team is that you might keep knocking us down, but you’re not going to knock us out, and they never could knock us out,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said.
The Tigers scored on their opening possession, and New Albany failed to answer, punting the ball back. Two personal fouls hurt the ‘Dawgs and led to another Ripley touchdown with 3:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Tyler Basil connected with sophomore Josh Creekmore early in the second to put New Albany on the board, 14-6, and the defense stepped up with their first of two fumbles forced on the night.
Price said during the week that his team had more tricks up their sleeves, and he proved that in a fourth down situation, as Kareem Brown took a fake punt attempt into the Tiger 10-yard line, setting up New Albany’s second touchdown, a familiar Basil keeper. A two-point conversion tied the game at 14.
Luke Foley would capture the second fumble of the game late in the second, but New Albany was unable to capitalize, keeping the score tied at the half.
“Our defense created a big turnover for us, got us the ball back and put us in good field position, and we were able to capitalize on that. A lot of our guys on defense have not had a lot of game experience, but they’re getting better from week to week,” Price said.
Both teams traded touchdowns in the third, as Basil scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season at the 3:22 mark, tying the game at 21.
New Albany took their first lead in the fourth after a blocked punt placed the ball at the Ripley 35-yard line, setting up a Basil touchdown pass to Taylor Goode. The extra point was blocked, giving the Bulldogs the six point advantage.
Ripley responded with a touchdown to take the 28-27 lead, and was looking to hold on for the win until a late interception gave New Albany the ball back, and Kareem Brown scored the winning touchdown with :50 remaining.
“I saw it. Eric made a big hole, and the line did a great job hooking, and I saw it all the way. It was a great play,” Brown said.
The win sent the team and fans into a frenzy, as New Albany has lost the last two meetings, but the Bulldogs do hold the edge winning six of the last eight.
Brown led the rushing attack, going for 109 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, while Eric Johnson had 72 yards off 11 carries.
Brown, the team’s player of the week, was also the leading receiver with five catches for 50 yards. Goode had three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown as well with Basil finishing 13-for-18, 135 yards and two touchdowns. Basil also rushed for 26 yards and two scores, earning offensive player of the week honors from the coaching staff.
“It’s a lot of fun to be the offensive coordinator. Last week, Bobby and Taylor had great games, and tonight they made big catches when they needed to. Eric Johnson made big runs when he needed to, and Tyler Basil picked up big first downs and made great decisions. This is a team effort, not individual,” Price said of his offensive unit. “I would hate to be coaching against us, because it’s hard to pinpoint just one guy to stop because we do have a lot of weapons. No one is begging to have the ball come to them, but when it does, they’re making big plays, and that’s all we can ask them to do.”
On the defensive front, Zach Hand had 12 tackles, while Austin Howard, Shawn Smith and Brown each had eight.
“I don’t think there’s a team around that’s worked harder than us,” Brown said. “We’ve been working hard in the weight room, and we’re coming together as a team. If we keep doing that, we’re going to go a long way in the future.”
“Ripley is a really good football team, and they’re very strong, so it’s impressive what our kids were able to do tonight. I don’t think folks realize how good we really are, and I think that says a lot about how good New Albany might be, so it feels good tonight,” Price added.
Unfortunately the ‘Dawgs offensive line was hard hit as senior Drew Davis went down early in the game. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of his injury.
“You hope and pray for the best, and we’ll find out more about that next week,” Price said.
Emotions were high as the team celebrated at the end of the game, and Price made sure he let his team know how much they deserved this and they look to build on this victory for the future.
“We’ve come so close for two years, and our kids have fought from day one since I took this job. For them to finally taste a big win just thrills me to death. It’s for them. They’ve worked so hard, and it’s special,” Price said. “We’ve been through a lot of trials together and have been criticized as a coaching staff, and I think tonight we proved we know what we’re doing, we’re heading in the right direction and these kids believe in us, so that’s big.”
Many players, including Brown, walked slowly off the field as they did not want the moment to end.
“I’m not ready to walk off the field yet,” Brown laughed. “We are so excited. We’ve been working so hard, and we deserve this. We’ve been living with hatred and disgust for 365 days, and we deserve this.”