New Albany’s offense was a strong force in their 48-13 win over Itawamba, but the defense once again showed their strength while battling adversity in the first half.
Up 20-13, the Bulldogs’ defense forced Itawamba to punt, but a fumble by Josh Creekmore set the Indians’ up in the red zone with less than two minutes remaining. Back-to-back plays for a loss, including a sack by Luke Foley, sent the game into the half with New Albany maintaining their lead.
“At that point, we really found out what kind of character our football team really has,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said. “That defensive stand right before the half was huge. We thought we had stopped them and would go into the half up 20-13, and we gave up the ball. Our defense once again stepped up to the challenge, making the play with a sack right before the half, and I’m proud once again of their effort tonight.”
“When I came off the ball, I knew I had a chance,” Foley added. “The tackle was in my ear, yelling, and I peeled off and smashed Mikhail in the back, so it was a big play, and I’m really glad I made it that time.”
New Albany scored 28 unanswered in the second half, starting with a goal line score by Tyler Basil and a 17-yard run by Kelvin Worship. Itawamba fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, leading to a Taylor Goode touchdown reception from Basil.
“We’ve been working hard because the offense hasn’t been coming out the past few weeks until the second half,” Goode said. “We’ve been talking all week that we’ve got to come out with a fire and keep it throughout the game, and we did that tonight.”
Goode finished with four receptions, three of which for touchdowns, and 79 yards. Basil ended 9-for-18 for 156 yards and four scores.
Kelvin Worship capped the scoring with a one-yard run in the fourth, finishing with 155 yards on the ground.
“We got over a hurdle last week with Pontotoc,” Price said. “Itawamba’s a great team, and our kids don’t want anything easy, so that adversity in the second quarter and just able to withstand that and take control in the third quarter was big. “
New Albany jumped to a 20-0 lead in the first half, led by Basil and Goode connecting for the first two touchdowns. Basil also found Kareem Brown for one of his six receptions before Itawamba scored twice in the second quarter.
Mikhail Miller ran 33-yards for the first touchdown for the Indians, and Austin Shumpert’s interception of Basil was good for Itawamba’s second score. While the 13 points are the most New Albany’s defense has given up so far this season, they are credited with holding Miller to only 32 rushing yards while sacking him five times.
“We all got together as a senior group after the Corinth game, and we told everybody that we just have to lay it on the line everyday at practice and on Friday nights, we just have to come out like it’s the best day of our lives, and so far it has been,” Foley said.
Riley Alef led the defense with 11 tackles and an interception, and Devonte Bradley recorded two of the ‘Dawgs sacks.
Next for the Bulldogs is a two-game road slate, starting with North Pontotoc.
“Every week, the challenge becomes bigger and bigger,” Price said. “We want the kids to enjoy this one, but next week’s going to be even bigger going to North Pontotoc. We know those guys are going to give us their best effort, and it’s going to be a hardnosed football game. Hopefully we can keep our kids motivated, keep them focused and go again next Friday night and do it again.”