New Albany still has a bitter taste in their mouth, as they are looking for revenge hosting Pontotoc this Friday in their divisional opener. The ‘Dawgs lost a hard fought battle on the road in 2008, losing 21-20 in two overtimes, only inches away from the win and possible playoff spot. With Homecoming festivities also taking place, the Bulldogs are prepared to enter their first division game.
“It was a close, hard fought game, and we were only inches away from winning that game last year, and of course had we made some plays earlier, we wouldn’t have had to go into overtime,” NAHS assistant coach Scott Duley said Wednesday. “It was a close game, and Pontotoc played hard in the second half. Our kids really do not need any extra motivation, they know it’s our first division game.”
Last year’s contest saw Eric Johnson rush for over 100 yards and the ‘Dawgs held the lead until Pontotoc made a comeback in the fourth quarter. New Albany would block the potential game-winning field goal for the Warriors before falling in overtime. NAHS will face many of the same members of last year’s team, as Pontotoc has a lot of depth and experience.
“We’ve given our kids a good look this week as to what Pontotoc has done the last few games,” Duley explained. “Coach Dampier is a very good coach, and he’s very multiple. We know with this being the first divisional game, he’ll have something extra that we haven’t seen in the past, so we talked with our kids about being calm, about alignment, lining up correctly and what their assignment is. Pontotoc is a great team, but as we watch film, we’ve noticed other teams have not been that physical with them as we hope we’ll be able to be. It’s a big game, huge, for both of us opening the division, so we need not only to perform well, but also to have a big win.”
The ‘Dawgs defense will be focusing on several Warriors, particularly quarterback Caden Dallas, who had the game tying touchdown and two point conversion in last year’s game. He is one of several offensive weapons the Bulldogs will look to contain.
“They have three or four great guys on offense. They have two receivers in particular that they like to hit. They also have a great running back, and this is Dallas’ fifth year on varsity, so he’s seasoned and he hits windows better than any quarterback I’ve seen in high school,” Duley said. “They execute their offensive plays very well. They also have a couple freshmen starting on their offense, but they’re very talented freshmen. If you watch them on film, they throw the long ball well, the short ball well, they run very well. Their offense is powerful and their defense is stingy, so overall they’re a good football team.”
This is the first of five straight division games to close out the 2009 regular season, as New Albany’s next four opponents are all currently undefeated, and two of them, Itawamba and Shannon are the top two 4A teams in the state.
“We have to take it one game at a time. They have great athletes, and we have to be prepared each week to defend and to play offense against their athletes and against their different schemes,” Duley said.
Pontotoc and New Albany will kickoff at 7:00 p.m., following Homecoming at 6:30 p.m.