On a night where the seniors where honored, it was the message from one that motivated his teammates.
Facing the two-time defending state champions in a pivotal division match-up, Austin Howard had one statement he made to his fellow seniors before facing Lafayette.
“I will always remember while standing on the sideline with the captains, Austin kept saying it’s our night,” Bulldogs quarterback Spencer Day said. “We bought into it, and we didn’t want to go against them any other way.”
Coming down to a battle in overtime, New Albany defeated the Commodores, 10-7, after a field goal from Eathan Rainey.
“Our team’s been in big games, and they believed they could win,” Bulldogs head coach Ron Price said. “They’ve been focused all week, and they’ve had a mission on their mind. They knew what stood before them this week, and it’s just awesome to see them come out tonight as loose as they were.”
In a first half full of big defensive stops and penalties, the Bulldogs took the lead with 15 seconds remaining before the break, as Day connected with Howard on a 47-yard score.
“It gave us all the momentum in the world, and we felt like, for the first time, that we could do this,” Howard said.
The Bulldogs held on to that momentum and kept the Commodores out of the end zone until mid-way through the fourth quarter. With 6:56 remaining, Brandon Mack found DK Buford for a 14-yard touchdown that tied the game.
New Albany had a chance to take the win in regulation, as Day had two key passes to J.T. Moore and Howard that set up a field goal from Alex Harrison with 1.2 seconds remaining. A high snap led to a blocked kick, forcing overtime.
The Commodores were on offense first in overtime and made it to the one-yard line. On fourth down, the Bulldogs had a huge stop, holding Lafayette scoreless, and after three running plays in its offensive series, New Albany reached the three-yard line, setting up Rainey’s 10-yard kick.
“I knew I could make it from that range, and it was a good snap and a good hold, and everything just worked out,” Rainey said.
Price credits his team’s defense playing its part in handing Lafayette its first loss in division play since 2008, when the Commodores fell 13-12 to Gentry.
“They’ve improved every week, and to come out tonight against a quality opponent like Lafayette and hold them to seven points, I could never ask them to do that,” Price said. “I told them this week if we could hold them to 21 points, we could be successful, and then they came out tonight and surprised me and made the plays when they needed to. To stop them on the one inch line like they did just shows the character of our kids and coaching staff.”
Now at 5-4 (3-0), New Albany has two division games remaining, both on the road. Wins over Rosa Fort and Lewisburg will give the Bulldogs its second division championship in three years.
“They have the chance, for the first time in school history, to win two division championships,” Price said of the senior class. “We’ve got to continue to take care of business. With the way things were happening earlier this season, it seemed like we kept hitting bumps and having obstacles thrown as us.”
“The biggest thing is just believing you can beat somebody, and they believed all week they could beat Lafayette, and it’s amazing to come out tonight and make it happen.”