New Albany falls in season opener
Bulldogs suffer 38-13 setback to Water Valley
By Jay Tidwell
Special to the News Exchange
NEW ALBANY – Devin Wilson is spending this week improving himself and his teammates.
The junior running back led New Albany with 63 yards on 11 carries – one for a touchdown – against Water Valley last Friday, but it was not enough to make up for a sluggish second half by the Bulldogs which led to a 38-13 loss in their high school football season-opener.
It was the first loss by New Albany to a Class 3A team since a 35-20 setback to Corinth (now a 4A squad) on Sept. 4, 2009.
“We came out in the first half and we’re on all cylinders, and then came out the second half and started dragging around,” Wilson said. “We’ve just got to prepare for next week and get better. I’ve got to push myself and my teammates to get better.”
On the opening drive, New Albany pressed to Water Valley’s 8-yard line on big runs by Wilson and Jimmy Baldon, and a pass from Bryce Collins to Baldon. The drive stalled when Collins was sacked on fourth-and-one. The Blue Devils responded with a 90-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass from E.J. Bounds to James Washington with 5:31 remaining in the opening period.
On the following possession, Collins found Baldon for a 73-yard scoring pass to tie it at 7-all with 4:01 left in the quarter. Eathen Rainey connected on his only point-after attempt.
New Albany started falling behind in the second quarter, with two turnovers leading to points by Water Valley (1-0). A turnover on downs at the Blue Devils’ 36 resulted in another TD pass by Bounds. After Collins was picked off at midfield by Kirkland Horton, Elijah Rogers ran in from 25 yards to put the visitors in front 21-7 with 1:38 remaining in the first half.
“I really like the effort our kids came out with in the first half,” said New Albany head coach Ron Price. “They competed. They were doing the little things right. They were staying on blocks, maintaining blocks. They were giving great effort. Then I did a poor job of calling plays that should have put points on the board early in the game.
“With a young football team, you’ve got to get confidence early,” Price continued. “I feel like I failed the team in the first half by leaving points out on the field. If we got those field goals, touchdowns, anything, it gives our kids confidence in what they’re doing and we’re not in the situation we’re in at halftime, down 21-7.”
Water Valley’s Robert Mays returned the kickoff 57 yards to start the third quarter and Rogers sprinted in from 28 yards on the first play from scrimmage to put them in front 28-7.
New Albany (0-1) was unable to respond. It was held to a three-and-out on its next possession, lost a fumble, then was pushed back on its last series of the third quarter.
Bounds, a senior, completed seven of 11 for 145 yards and three TDS, and had 12 carries for 57 yards for the Blue Devils. Rogers finished with 13 carries for 90 yards and a pair of scores.
New Albany drove 67 yards on its final possession of the night and scored on a 4-yard run by Wilson with 57 seconds left in regulation.
“One thing I’ve taken pride in over the last several years is our guys always competed for 48 minutes, no matter winning or losing,” Price said. “I could look out on the field and I could know for 48 minutes our kids were giving us everything they had.
“Tonight, we came out in the second half, offensively, defensively, and special teams and nobody showed up,” he continued. “I’ll take credit for that. We’ll go to the practice field next week and we’ll get better. Apparently, we’re not putting the right people out there. We’ve got to put people on the field that want to compete. We’ll start working on that Monday.”
Collins, a junior, completed seven of 13 attempts for 122 yards, with one interception and one touchdown. Baldon led the receivers with three catches for 87 yards with a touchdown, and also had nine rushes for 55 yards.
“We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to keep getting better,” Price said. “We all feel bad tonight, but hopefully in November we can look back and see this team has grown from week to week and been successful in the end.”
About Dennis ClaytonI cover high school sports in Union County and occasionally contribute sports articles to sister community newspapers of Journal Inc. I have lived in Union County my entire life and strive to use my articles to promote our players, teams and schools. Follow me on Twitter: @denclayton for scores and updates on our local high school teams.
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