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For the past two seasons, New Albany head coach Ron Price preached to his team that they were moving in the right direction. Starting with his staff’s first win in 2008, the Bulldogs have battled heartbreaking losses and achieved signature wins. After Friday night, they now call themselves division champions after defeating Shannon, 27-13.
“These kids have worked so hard from day one, and for them to see that hard work pays off and good things come to those who do good and try to achieve, they’re an outstanding group of young men, and we’ve said that from day one,” Price said. “They believe in each other and believe in what we do as coaches. I’m just so thankful to be here and thankful that we are able to accomplish the goal we set out for at the beginning of the season.”
A defensive battle throughout, New Albany broke the scoreless tie with a 21-yard field goal by Sam Jackson Dunnam at the beginning of the second quarter. The Bulldogs would later add to that lead with a 15-yard run by Kelvin Worship.
Shannon scored their first points on the ensuing drive, as Bodarius Taylor had the goal line score. Missing the extra point, the Red Raiders were down 10-6, but another field goal by Dunnam and a Tyler Basil touchdown pass to Taylor Goode made it 20-6 at the half.
“We knew it was going to be a dog fight and they were not going to give up easy,” Price said. “We couldn’t make the plays tonight a lot of times, but we made them when we needed them, and did enough to win the game. Shannon’s a great ball club, and they had a lot to do with the things we were not doing good tonight.”
New Albany maintained their lead, and Basil would find Goode again in the fourth quarter, making it 27-6, but Shannon responded quickly with a touchdown run by Legilbert Bogan, making it a two-possession game. New Albany’s defense toughened up, forcing a turnover on downs late in the game, and the Bulldogs stormed the field in celebration of their division championship.
“The seniors did a great job this week leading us through practice and told us to stay focused, because at North Pontotoc, we lost our focus, but we were able to get the win,” junior defensive back Josh Creekmore said. “This week, they just made sure we stayed focused, and we all knew how big this game was, and it’s an amazing feeling that we’re division champions.”
While the Bulldogs now know they will enter the playoffs as a number one seed, they still have to focus on one more regular season game before entering the postseason.
“All season we’ve told our kids to take it one game at a time and stay focused on the task at hand,” Price said. “We’ll enjoy this, but come Monday, we’ll put our focus on Tishomingo County. We’re going to work hard and prepare for them just like everyone else.”
New Albany will honor their 21 seniors in next week’s game against the Braves.