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One play defined the Bulldogs’ division opener, as New Albany fought from behind for a 31-10 win over Pontotoc.
“For two years, we found ways to lose the game in the second half,” NAHS head coach Ron Price said. “We just wanted to come out and dominate in the second half. To come out and get behind like they did and just to prove that we’re not the old New Albany football team; we’re a new New Albany football team, and that we can win. Even when we’re down and struggling, we still found a way to win, so that makes it very special.”
Pontotoc broke the scoreless game with a 20-yard field goal at the half and carried that momentum in their 93-yard opening drive in the third, capped by a touchdown by Randal Crayton.
Finding themselves down 10-0, Josh Creekmore took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for New Albany’s first score, igniting 31 unanswered points for the Bulldogs.
“I was kind of mad that they scored on the opening drive, and I wanted to get back in the game,” Creekmore said. “Coach Price said that we needed to dominate in the second half, so I just found that opening, because kickoff block perfectly. I cut back across the 50, and then I was all the way home from there.”
“We needed something to get us going, and we challenged every one of them, somebody just step up and make a play, and thank goodness Josh was able to do that,” Price added. “You could tell on his return, he was giving us everything he had; he wasn’t holding back. Everyone on the field was trying to block, and it was exactly what we needed at that point to get the football team going.”
The Bulldogs took their first lead late in the quarter on Tyler Basil’s 10-yard pass to Kareem Brown. The duo scored once more with New Albany ahead 21-10 going into the fourth quarter.
“Basically, I think we couldn’t handle the blitz, and I think we did a very good job in the second half of picking that up, giving me time to throw,” Basil said. “Josh brought us back with his kickoff return, and Kareem made one heck of a play in the second half, intercepting the ball and taking it back. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to play four quarters next week against Itawamba, and that’s what we’re going to work on next week in practice.”
Brown’s pick six came at the halfway point in the fourth, and Riley Alef followed that with an interception on the Warriors’ next drive. New Albany’s defense forced three turnovers in the second half, with Devonte Bradley recovering a fumble in the third.
“The defense came out and struggled a little, but we got going in the second half,” Brown said of the defense. “At halftime, Coach Price asked that someone step up and lead the team, and Josh came out and sparked the team, and we all fed off of him. The defense pulled together and we pulled it out.”
Sam Jackson Dumman capped the Bulldogs’ scoring with a field goal late in the game, as New Albany opens division play at 1-0, a feat the team is proud to accomplish.
“The first division win feels good,” Brown said. “We’ve never been at 1-0 in the division, and it’s a great feeling. I can’t speak for these guys, but I feel great, and I love these guys.”
Basil finished with 91 passing yards and two scores, while Brown had 74 receiving yards. Kelvin Worship led the rushing attack with 100 yards, and Alef and Zach Hand each had 13 tackles on defense, followed by Creekmore with 12.
New Albany returns home this week for a division showdown against Itawamba.