New Albany holds on for playoff win

 Josh Creekmore refuses to lose. Each week, the senior has stepped up for New Albany, giving the Bulldogs the needed boost, and it was his three touchdowns that led the ‘Dawgs to its 21-17 win against Houston in the first round of the playoffs.

“You’ve got to love the kid to death,” NAHS coach Ron Price said. “When we need a big play, we know we can put the ball in his hands, and he finds a way to make it. They had several chances to tackle him on the long touchdown, but he was determined to get the touchdown and would not fall down. I’m thankful he puts on that New Albany uniform every Friday night.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Hilltoppers took a Bulldog fumble and threatened near the goal line, but were stopped after a fumble recovery from Tyrone Vance at the three-yard line. On the next play, Creekmore set up his first score with an 85-yard run to the Houston 12-yard line, followed by his reception from Spencer Day, giving New Albany the 7-0 advantage.

Houston answered before the half, as an interception by Josh White set up a touchdown run from Kantrell Murry. With the extra point blocked, the ‘Dawgs held a 7-6 lead at the break.

“Houston came in with a great game plan tonight, and they were in our backfield all night, messing up our plays,” Price said. “It just comes down to this time of year, being physical, and you have to want it.”

Creekmore led the Bulldogs with another long run, setting up his second score early in the third, but the Hilltoppers quickly responded with a touchdown pass from Sharone Wright to Austin Blansett. After converting the two-point conversion, the game remained tied until Houston took its only lead in the fourth on a field goal.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Hilltoppers received a personal foul that set the Bulldogs up at their own 45-yard line. Creekmore converted on his third touchdown, and Riley Alef followed that with an interception on Houston’s next possession to seal the win.

“The credit goes mostly to my teammates, to tell you the truth,” Creekmore said. “They give me the ball, Coach Price calls my number, and they block for me. All I do is run.  I just never want to quit, and I never want the game to end. I refuse to lose, and I think the team’s mentality is forming around mine, because they hate to lose and they never want to quit. That’s what we do as we advance in the playoffs.”

“Our defense has kept us in the game all year, and it’s hard to be frustrated with those guys,” Price added. “Houston is a very physical team. They came in tonight determined to win, looking for that big win, and our defense made the plays when they needed to. We got the big turnover at the goal line, and Riley later came up with the interception to help run the clock out. They made the plays when they needed to.”

New Albany now looks ahead to a rematch with Cleveland in the second round. The Wildcats defeated the ‘Dawgs, 31-13, earlier this season and held on for a 40-36 win against Itawamba on Friday. For Creekmore and his fellow seniors, they are not ready for the season to end, and this is the time to leave everything on the field.

“I didn’t want to come out and lose in the first round of the playoffs, and fortunately we didn’t,” he said. “I just want to keep winning with these seniors, and I want my last high school football game to be in Jackson. A lot of those seniors feel the same way. All of the underclassmen are fighting for us, so we’re fighting for them.”