This year, the season opener was about more than just beating a rival, it was also about beating the critics.
Carrying their reloading theme, New Albany held on to defeat Ripley, 19-14, making it three straight against one of their biggest rivals, eight out of the last ten in the series.
“It thrills my life because all I want to do is win as many games as possible, and I really dislike Ripley a lot,” senior Josh Creekmore said. “They’re great people, but when it comes to football, it’s war. To beat them three years in a row, it really means a lot to me and hopefully all of my teammates as well.”
New Albany scored 19 first half points off two touchdowns from Creekmore on runs of five and 84 yards. Junior Boston Newsome added the third score from five yards out late in the second quarter, capping a half that was dominated by the ‘Dawgs.
“We came out in the first half and did everything we were supposed to do to be a successful football team; we took care of the football and made the plays when we had the opportunities,” NAHS Head Coach Ron Price said. “Josh Creekmore did a good job of taking the ball to the end zone, and the offensive line was doing a good job of executing up front and the defense was making play after play.”
Knowing one play can change the tempo of the game, the Bulldogs watched as Devin Jones took the opening kickoff of the second half to the New Albany 15-yard line, followed shortly after by a touchdown run from Isaac Bails.
The Tigers later converted on a fourth and eleven play, and Jones cut the deficit to five with his nine-yard run.
“In the second half, we talk about one play can turn the game around, and the opening kickoff in the second half did that,” Price said. “Ripley got the momentum there, and they did a great job of not laying down, and they came out and gave us their best shot.”
Despite three turnovers off fumbles in the second half, the Bulldogs’ defense held the Tigers in the fourth, and getting the ball back with six minutes remaining, New Albany ran out the clock to pick up their first win of the season.
“They had the momentum the entire second half, but that final drive, our offense sealed the deal because we were able to make the plays to be winners,” Creekmore said.
“Coach Cox, Coach Kelly and Coach Monroe do an outstanding job with our defensive team,” Price added about the defense. “We kept putting those kids in tough situations, but they kept making plays, so our defense did an outstanding job tonight.”
The win marks the 13th straight New Albany has won in the regular season dating back to their 2009 win against Tishomingo County, and this year’s team made one thing clear: they are not backing down for anyone, and they can be just as successful as last year’s squad.
“We’ve overcome what everyone’s said that we wouldn’t be as good as we were last year,” junior Trey Smith said. “Stuff like that can hurt you, but it also builds up momentum in your head, and it makes you want to go out and play harder and prove people wrong. That’s what we did tonight.”
“I’ve been playing for three years now, and we’ve been able to beat Ripley every year. I just can’t explain it,” junior Kachius Clay added. “This is the result of everything we’ve endured in practices leading up to the season. We just have to go out now and keep working hard.”
Next for the Bulldogs is another road test at Itawamba, but before they begin to prepare for the Indians, they want to spend some time enjoying this win.
“Our seniors can go out tonight knowing that they’ve never lost to Ripley, and that’s a huge accomplishment for them,” Price said. “These seniors are special, and they haven’t gotten a lot of recognition, but we know they’re a special group of kids. We just have to come back now and prepare for Itawamba, but we’re going to enjoy this win until about three o’clock Monday afternoon.”