A single play as time expired sent New Albany fans in a frenzy Friday night, as the Bulldogs battled for a 22-20 win against North Pontotoc.
With one second remaining and the ‘Dawgs down 20-19, Alex Harrison lined up for the 42-yard field goal that not only gave New Albany the win, but caused fans to storm the field afterward.
“Ethan is very consistent on his extra points, but Alex has the stronger leg of the two, and I give credit to my coaching staff because those guys were yelling to put Alex in because of his leg, and they knew he had the stronger leg of the two, and just credit those guys,” NAHS coach Ron Price said. “Great job by our entire field goal team because everyone had to do their part. Great job by Marcus Reed holding the ball down and allowing Alex to get the biggest kick of his life.”
The kick was set up after North Pontotoc scored on a run by Caleb Mills that gave the Vikings the 20-19 advantage. Opting for a short kickoff, the Bulldogs used the short field and two pass plays to Josh Creekmore to set up the kick for Harrison, the furthest of his career.
“Honestly, I don’t remember what I was thinking,” Harrison said. “Ethan and I will sit out here in practice, and we would make bets about what would happen if we got to do something like this. I just never thought it really would.”
North Pontotoc scored first in the opening frame on a touchdown run by Mitchell Cunningham. After Riley Alef blocked the extra point, the Vikings held the 6-0 lead until a Spencer Day to Josh Hardin touchdown pass and missed extra point tied the game at the 8:56 mark in the second quarter. New Albany later took the lead on a run by Boston Newsome, holding on to the 13-6 advantage at the break.
Mills would tie the game in the third off his keeper, and Day would connect with Jerry Davis late in the quarter to give New Albany the lead once more, 19-13.
Late in the game and in North Pontotoc territory, the Bulldogs fumbled, giving the Vikings another chance at taking the lead, and after converting on two fourth down plays, North Pontotoc would take the lead on a two-yard run by Mills with :16.3 remaining.
“It comes down to kids not giving up,” Price said. “We may not be as pretty as we were last year, but they get down and fight and find a way to win. Spencer did a great job moving us down the field, and Josh Creekmore did a great job catching that last pass and getting out of bounds. One second was all we had to work with, and we made the most of it.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs held North Pontotoc to 123 yards on the ground, after the Vikings averaged 253 coming into the game. Price credits the unit, which saw big plays from Chandler Nail and Davis.
“Those coaches go in every Saturday and work for several hours getting these games plans ready. They have these kids believing New Albany can play defense,” Price said. “North Pontotoc’s offense has received a lot of recognition the first seven games, but our defense did a great job shutting them down tonight. Our kids deserve that ball game, and I’m just so proud that we came out on the winning end.”
The loss is the first for the Vikings this season, while the Bulldogs remain unbeaten in division play.
“They’re 7-1 now, and with this win, we pretty much guarantee a spot in the playoffs, and the road is easier that what it would have been, so I’m thrilled we were able to get the win,” Harrison said.
Next for the Bulldogs is a road test at Lafayette, and Price said he would love nothing more than for his team to put forth a great effort against the state’s top ranked team.
“If we can stay focused and continue to work hard, this puts us where we need to be,” he said. “Now maybe some people will talk about New Albany and Lafayette next week. That’s the two teams fighting for this division.”
“We disappointed our community with the way we played against them last year, and all you can ask for is a rematch, and we have that next week at Lafayette. I know our kids are going to come in focused and ready to prepare for Lafayette, so we’ll see how we do next Friday night.”