It was emphasized much throughout the evening that it’s just a football game and to remember the important things in life.
In an evening filled with lots of emotion, New Albany took the field, arm-in-arm, and maintained that unity throughout its 28-21 win over Ripley on Friday night.
For the players, it was not only about earning a fourth straight win over their rival, but also for playing for their coach and the memory of his late wife.
“Not only is this Ripley, one of the biggest games on the schedule, but it’s the opening game after what happened last December,” Bulldogs’ quarterback Spencer Day said. “We have a great coaching staff, but tonight was about more than just football. It’s just a game, but we wanted to come out here and play for Mrs. Amanda.”
Much like its 19-14 win at Ripley last year, the Bulldogs came out hot on offense, scoring 21 points in the first half, beginning with a first quarter touchdown by Boston Newsome. O.J. Hardin added the second rushing touchdown in the second quarter and Day found Kachius Clay, giving New Albany a 21-0 lead at the half.
“In the first half, we just had our game plan that we’ve worked on all week, and we went out and scored three touchdowns,” Day said. “At halftime, we talked about last year, how we let them come back and how we didn’t want to do that this year.”
“We told them at halftime, you know they’re going to come back fighting, and we have to go out and play football; the opening drive of the second half is very important,” added head coach Ron Price said. “I think we came out and the first snap was bad, and one thing led to another.”
The Bulldogs had six turnovers in the game, four fumbles in the second half. Capitalizing on the mistakes, Tigers’ quarterback Cody James rushed for three touchdowns and tied the game on a two-point conversion with 8:54 remaining. New Albany answered with Newsome’s second touchdown from five yards out, giving the ‘Dawgs the 28-21 advantage.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid, getting those three and four yards, and when you need it the most, he gets a 50 or 60 yard run,” Price said of Newsome. “I’m very thankful for his effort tonight. I know he turned the ball over a couple of times, but he’s playing hard and giving us everything he’s got.”
On Ripley’s next drive, senior Danortis McWilliams intercepted James, but New Albany handed the ball over on a fumble with 2:28 remaining and the Tigers at midfield.
“That was a big play, and we needed someone to step up and give us some momentum,” Price said. “Danortis stepped up, and he’s going to be a key contributor to our team this year. He got the ball back to us, and we went out and turned the ball over again, but the defense came out and stopped them.”
“I’m very proud of the defensive players and coaches. We’re good at putting them in very tough positions, but they always find a way to hold on.”
Ripley turned the ball over on downs, and as the time expired, the Price pointed to the sky and embraced his players, grateful to add a win to the special evening.
“It’s unbelievable. Amanda wouldn’t have wanted anything less tonight than a four quarter battle,” he said. “I know her heart was pounding just like mine was, but she knew the kids were going to find a way through, and I know she would be standing on the edge of that track, patting them on the back, telling them we have things we need to work on, but we have a win. She would have a smile on her face, and I know she would be proud of their effort tonight.”
And the Bulldogs are proud to have earned this win for their coach and make it nine wins out of the last 11 games against the Tigers.
“It feels good to beat Ripley four years in a row,” added Newsome. “This is all just very emotional. You can feel it in the air. We’re glad to be 1-0 and proud to be 4-0 against Ripley.”
Day finished the night 9-for-12 for 76 yards passing and Newsome ran for 181 yards on 29 carries. The Bulldogs' defense had four sacks, two from Clay.
The Bulldogs will host Itawamba this week. The Indians defeated Saltillo 17-7 last week.