Some of the biggest games for New Albany this season have been defined by one play, and it took just that to spark the ‘Dawgs in their second round road win at Kosciusko Friday night.
Receiving the ball first in the second half of a scoreless game, Kareem Brown returned the kickoff 87 yards, sparking 28 third quarter points for the Bulldogs.
“Those kids did an outstanding job setting it up for us, and Kareem did an outstanding job of breaking when saw the seam, and he broke a couple tackles of his own,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said. “That’s what we needed, just something to get us going. When you go on the road, it’s difficult to get going sometimes, but we made the plays when we needed to tonight, and I’m proud of our young men.”
New Albany had opportunities to score in the first half, particularly in their opening possession, with Josh Creekmore converting on a fourth down play and Riley Alef later on a third and long. The Whippets’ defense managed a turnover on downs, but New Albany would return the favor toward the end of the half with a defensive stand of their own.
“They brought pressure after pressure and they were in my face all night,” senior quarterback Tyler Basil said. “The second half, the line did a great job protecting me like they’ve done all season, and they did a great job. Once we figured out what they were doing, it was down hill from there.”
“We had three opportunities to score and we just didn’t make the plays,” Price added. “At this stage of the playoffs, as you advance, you have to make those plays when you have the opportunity. We got the kids in at halftime and we knew we could be successful if we just stayed focused and continued to execute when it was given to us.”
Preaching to his team that one player needed to step up and score or their season would end was all the Bulldogs needed. After Brown’s kickoff return, Kelvin Worship found the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns, and Basil later connected with Taylor Goode on a 77-yard score. Defensively, New Albany held the Whippets scoreless and with only one completed pass in the 28-0 win.
“We’ve challenged them all season to bring the wood, and we needed it more than ever tonight,” Price said. “Kosciusko is a well-coached football team and they run that offense with perfection. Our kids did a great job tonight, and our defensive coaches did a great job all week getting our kids in the position they needed to be. We preached to our kids all week that they needed to wrap up when they got to the football, and I saw them playing with intensity tonight.”
Next for the Bulldogs is the long-anticipated match-up of unbeatens, as New Albany will host defending North Half Champion Lafayette in the third round.
“That’s what you’ve been dreaming of ever since you were a little kid,” Basil said. “Third round of the playoffs, hopefully north half, hopefully a state championship and we get to play Lafayette. They went to state last year and they return pretty much everyone from their team. They’re ranked number one in the state in 4A, we’re number two, so you couldn’t ask for anything else.”
“All you want is a chance, and we have that next Friday night,” Price added. “Our kids are going to lay it all on the line, and it’s going to be two very good teams going at it. We want their best shot, and we’ll hopefully give them ours. At the end of the night, the best team is going to come out on top.”