The Bulldogs’ playoff destiny is in their hands, and they took another step toward clinching the two seed in region play, defeating Tunica Rosa Fort, 24-18, on homecoming.
“I guess we’re going to make every game as close as we possibly can, but our guys battled until the end tonight and found a way to win,” coach Ron Price said. “Defense did a good job in the second half of shutting them out, and they were put in some very tough positions, and the officials didn’t help us out either. We made the plays when we needed them, and it’s our seventh win of the season, and hopefully we can learn from the mistakes tonight.”
Almost all of the scoring took place in the opening quarter, as Rosa Fort starting things with Anthony Lewis scoring off a fumble by Spencer Day. New Albany did not trail for long, answering with a run by Josh Creekmore, and the extra point gave the ‘Dawgs its first lead, 7-6.
Both teams went back and forth in the frame, with James Northern scoring on the Lions next possession, and Creekmore later added his second score, giving the ‘Dawgs a 14-12 lead. Northern responded on the ensuing kickoff, taking it 80 yards, putting the Lions ahead 18-14.
“They’re loaded with talent all over the field,” Price said. “Northern is being recruited by Ole Miss, among other schools, and he’s in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, and he showed tonight that he is a quality football player. When the ball is thrown to him, he went after it. There’s no doubt that he wanted the ball.”
New Albany finally caught a break before the half, getting a fumble recovery on a punt return, and with three Rosa Fort penalties, connected on an Ethan Rainey field goal, putting the Bulldogs down by one, 18-17, at the break.
“It was big,” Price said. “The defense, we have to give them a lot of credit for not allowing Rosa Fort to put the ball in the end zone right before the half, allowing us some time. We were able to drive down and get the field goal, and that was a big accomplishment for our kids. They battled all the way down in the first half.”
Turnovers plagued both teams at the beginning of the third quarter, but the Bulldogs managed to get the go-ahead touchdown, a Day to Josh Hardin pass, the deciding factor in the win.
“I was excited,” the senior said. “We tried it earlier, and it didn’t work. We went back to it and I got away somehow.”
“We knew if we came out and won, we would be set in the playoffs and determine our own destiny. It wasn’t pretty, but we did it.”
New Albany will close out the regular season next Friday night, hosting Lewisburg, who fell 38-14 to North Pontotoc on Friday.
“You have to make plays, and we did that when it mattered the most. Every week is a challenge, and we’re finding ways to overcome these obstacles, and that makes me proud to be their head coach.”
“Rosa Fort came in tonight hungry for a win, and they tried to make the plays to get that win, but thank goodness our kids held on for the win.”