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The state’s top ranked team stands in New Albany’s way in its quest for a second consecutive division title. There is also revenge on the minds of those Bulldogs who returned after last season’s playoff loss to Lafayette. All of this combines to make one of the biggest match-ups of the week.
“They’re the number one team in the state, and I don’t know if New Albany has ever had the opportunity to play the number one team in the state,” NAHS coach Ron Price said. “We played Lafayette as the number one team in 4A, but never the state, and it’s an honor for the kids to have that opportunity. It’s a big deal, and a lot of credit to them. They deserve to be the state’s top team.”
The Commodores have rolled through its Mississippi opponents so far this season, outscoring them 311-50. Lafayette’s closest game this season, a 35-34 win over Evangel Christian Academy out of Louisiana.
“They have a solid offense, defense and special teams, so it’s hard to find any kind of weakness,” Price said. “They’re number one for a reason because they’re good at everything they do. They have a first class coaching staff, but anything can happen on any given Friday.”
Familiar faces will meet the ‘Dawgs, as Jeremy Liggins again leads the team, passing for 824 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 494 yards and nine touchdowns.
Behind Liggins is another player Price pointed out in Demarkus Dennis, who rushed for 138 yards in last year’s battle, and so far has rushed for 1182 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
“It’s hard to prepare for Liggins because we do not have anyone that big that can simulate him in practice,” Price said. “We just have to take care of New Albany and prepare ourselves to tackle well and prepare to play at full speed. Our defense is going to have to run to the football and we’ll have to have multiple players to the ball each play.”
“Liggins gets a lot of credit, but Dennis is just as talented and can hurt you just as bad on any given play. Our guys have to know their responsibilities this week and it has to be a total team effort this week. Last year, we turned the ball over against them, and to have a chance against a team like that, you cannot turn the ball over and you have to create turnovers and force mistakes they don’t normally make.”
The Bulldogs hope to redeem the 35-0 loss suffered to the ‘Dores last season, and Price has no doubt his team will put forth its best effort with the hopes of capturing a division title.
“Everybody understands what we’re doing this week,” he said “We’re thankful for the opportunity to have the chance to play for, what we think, will be the division championship. Our kids over the last couple of years have played in some big ball games and have played well, and we are disappointed in how we played Lafayette last year.”
“Hopefully this is motivation for our kids to go out and show that we’re a much better football team and improved. We’re going to take it one play at a time, and hopefully some things will bounce our way this time.”
Friday's kickoff is set for 7 p.m.