By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Somehow the attention will turn to football tonight in New Albany, when the Bulldogs host Ripley in the Hwy. 15 Rivalry.
The return of football season will have to share the stage though, as hosts and visitors alike will honor the memory of New Albany coach Ron Price’s late wife, Amanda, who was killed Dec. 5 by a home intruder.
Purple – her favorite color – will be worn by fans of each team.
“I’ve never coached a real game that she’s never been in the stands. It’s just … it’s going to be different,” an emotional Ron Price said. “I love football. I love everything about football. I love the excitement and the energy you get to associate with on Friday night. But I also loved my wife and she loved me and she loved football.
“She loved being a part of it and it hurts so bad for her not to be here. I’ve never done this by myself.”
On the field, New Albany has won three straight against the Tigers. New Ripley coach Chad Cook is now in charge of trying to change that.
Cook was hired from Shannon and brought a new offense. He’s no stranger. Shannon and New Albany were recent division opponents.
“They’re not going to beat themselves,” Cook said. “They’re going to try and find a way to run the ball and try to play in the pass.”
Ripley starts and ends with senior quarterback Cody James, in his third different offense, this one 90 percent from the shotgun. He passed for 147 yards and rushed for 120 in a jamboree against Itawamba AHS.
Cook is impressed by the size of New Albany.
“It looks like one of the biggest New Albany teams we’ve gone against,” Cook said. “I think their defensive line is really good. They’re big on the offensive line and their quarterback looks like he just throws short routes and you look up and he’s thrown it 50 yards downfield.”
James will see nine returners on defense for the Bulldogs.
New Albany’s spread features four receivers for quarterback Spencer Day, who threw for for 1,377 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago. He has 1,500-yard rusher Boston Newsome back.
“The kids really look up to him because he pushes himself so hard,amp” Price said of Newsome. “Spencer is a great leader and I love having him at quarterback. The kids see him too working harder than anybody.”