Bulldogs unable to come back against Rosa Fort
By Jay Tidwell
Special to the News-Exchange
NEW ALBANY – New Albany prepared for last Friday’s football match as if it was a playoff game.
Untimely turnovers in the fourth quarter ended any hopes at a real shot at the post-season.
Rosa Fort returned a fumble for a touchdown and later intercepted a pass to end a drive as the Bulldogs fell 28-14 to the Lions on Senior Night.
With the victory, Rosa Fort (8-1, 4-0), which came into the game ranked No. 5 statewide in Class 4A, clinched the top seed from Division 2-4A. It was a must-win situation for New Albany (4-6, 1-3), which was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
“We started last Sunday, telling our kids most teams have to win five games in the playoffs, but New Albany has to win seven, and our kids took that attitude to practice,” said New Albany head coach Ron Price. “We probably had the best week of practice we’ve had all year. They had a good attitude and they brought that tonight.”
New Albany’s Devin Wilson, a junior, led all runners with 21 carries for a season-high 167 yards with two touchdowns.
Bryce Collins completed 11 of 17 passes for 87 yards for the Bulldogs. Robert Franklin, one of the seniors who was honored prior to their final game at Kitchens Field, led all receivers with seven catches for 53 yards.
“I feel sorry for our seniors that we couldn’t give them a win on Senior Night, but they gave everything they had,” Price said. “The offense played the best ball game I think they’ve played all year.”
Bulldogs trail at halftime
After Rosa Fort scored on the opening possession of the night, New Albany responded with a 19-play drive that covered 85 yards and consumed nearly nine minutes. The drive ended with a 6-yard scoring run by Wilson with :06.8 seconds remaining in the opening quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead.
Rosa Fort’s Adrian Scott returned the following kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and added another TD on a 37-yard reception in the final seconds of the second quarter to give the Lions a 20-7 advantage by halftime.
“Tunica-Rosa Fort is the division champions this year for a reason,” Price said. “They’ve got a great football team.”
Fourth-quarter rally comes up short
After a scoreless third period, New Albany opened the final quarter with an 82-yard drive. Wilson carried four times, finishing with a 51-yard sprint to the end zone to edge within 20-14 with 9:40 remaining.
The Bulldogs’ defense held Rosa Fort to three-and-out on the following possession, and took over at their own 37. The Lions’ Keitadrion Wortham recovered a fumble on the first play and ran in for a score to go back ahead by two touchdowns.
New Albany followed with a steady drive, but it ended with an interception by Brandon Bryant that he returned from Rosa Fort’s 15 to midfield. The teams traded turnovers after that, but the momentum stayed with the Lions.
“We are blessed right now, and this is uncharted territory for us,” said Rosa Fort coach Edwin Norwood, whose team set a school record for wins in a season and clinched its first-ever division title. “These guys come from a lot of adversity, and have to go through a lot of adversity, and so to be in this position is very humbling.”