The Bulldogs remarkable playoff run came to an end Friday night, as the battle of unbeatens went in favor of Lafayette, 35-0, at Kitchens’ Field.
New Albany’s defense held strong on the Commodores’ opening possession, forcing a turnover on downs in the red zone, but several uncharacteristic miscues by the ‘Dawgs’ offense helped Lafayette jump to a 14-0 lead.
“In a game of this magnitude, you can’t turn the football over,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said. “We talked to our team this week that we’re going to have to create turnovers, and that happened to us; we turned the football over. They did a great job turning turnovers into touchdowns and they just got going offensively.”
Jeremy Liggins scored the first two touchdowns for the ‘Dores after interceptions by Tyler Basil. Down 14-0, the Bulldogs started to put together a good drive before a chop block penalty knocked out momentum.
On the Commodores’ next drive, Liggins fumbled inside the 10 yard line, but New Albany was unable to capitalize on the turnover, giving Lafayette the ball once more before the half, where they scored on a run by Jamel Dennis.
The Bulldogs’ fourth turnover led to Lafayette’s lone touchdown in the third, a Liggins pass to Brandon Mack, and Anfernee Gooch's 43-yard reception in the fourth sealed the win.
“They have a tremendously athletic football team, and they’re undefeated for a reason,” Price said. “You had two great football teams going at it tonight, and they just played better than us and proved that they’re the better football team. Our kids gave us everything they had and got us to this point, they just came up a little short. Take nothing away from Lafayette, I hope they go on to the state championship, and it was a great season for our young men.”
Basil finished 5-for-18 for 68 yards, while Josh Hardin was the top receiver with 41 yards. Kelvin Worship finished with 55 yards off 16 carries.
With the defense in tough situations throughout the night, Price noted the unit’s strong points and effort.
“Defense played outstanding, and you can’t contain Jeremy Liggins every single play,” he said. “We had such a great start defensively, and on offense, we just turned the ball over and created tough situations. Defense was on the field a lot tonight, and we were asking a lot of them. I hate we put them in those tough situations and I hate that we created those, but we laid it on the line tonight and came up short.”
Despite the loss, this has been a historic season for New Albany, posting the most wins in school history (13) while winning the Division 1-4A title and reaching the third round of the 4A state playoffs.
“This is what you dream of as a coach,” Price said. “You dream of games like this, and the community of New Albany has been outstanding; you couldn’t ask for anything more. The pep rally they had for us was outstanding, and we thank them for being behind us all season and for coming out and supporting us.”
Price will part with 21 seniors, who have fought adversity since starting as sophomores in 2008. From 3-7 their first season to division champions, this group helped restore pride in the program while rallying the community this year.
“You can’t really put into words how special this group of young men are,” an emotional Price said. “We would not be where we are if it were not for these group of kids. They’ve given us everything they’ve had since their sophomore year, and I’m just so thankful that everything came together this year and clicked like it did just because they believed in us and what we were trying to do. I’m just thankful they got to experience this football season.”
New Albany ends the 2010 season at 13-1.