NEW ALBANY – It wasn’t pretty, but New Albany High head coach Ron Price got the win he wanted against his hometown team.
Price’s Bulldogs, ranked third in the Daily Journal’s large schools rankings, defeated unranked Class 3A Corinth, 14-7, on Friday night at Kitchens Field.
“I went to Alcorn Central, so Corinth was our archrival,” said Price, who escaped his home field with a 3-0 record on the young season. “It’s always fun to beat those guys.
“I’ve had a hard time as a coach beating them, so it feels good to get a win.”
Friday’s victory also made New Albany 3-0 against Division 1-3A teams this season; the Bulldogs recorded double-digit victories over Booneville and Ripley, Corinth’s division rivals.
But with the offense struggling against Corinth (0-2), it would take a strong defensive performance for New Albany to avenge last year’s 35-20 loss to the Warriors.
“Our goal is to stop everybody at 14 points,” said New Albany senior linebacker Riley Alef. “So, three weeks in a row, we’ve accomplished that.”
The Bulldogs finally got on the board with 2:17 left in the first half. Just two plays after linebacker O.J. Hardin recovered a fumble, quarterback Tyler Basil atoned for his two second-quarter interceptions by connecting with receiver Taylor Goode for a 50-yard score.
“I think it had to do with a five-man front,” Basil said about his team being held to a season-low 14 points. “We don’t play many five-man fronts, and that’s tough when six men are rushing constantly. That’s hard on me and that’s hard on the line to protect me. …
“The timing (on offense) wasn’t there and most of that was my fault, and I take full responsibility for that.”
New Albany’s senior quarterback completed 17 of 31 passes for 285 yards in the game. Despite gaining a significant amount of yards through the air, it was the Bulldogs’ rushing attack that led to what proved to be the winning score.
Basil and running backs Kareem Brown and Kelvin Worship ran the Bulldogs to the 2-yard line, where Brown powered in for a touchdown on a drive that started on New Albany’s own 24 thanks to an interception by Alef.
On the possession, Brown had a gain of 20 yards, while Worship had a run of 25 yards and Basil had one of 17.
Nonetheless, the Bulldogs survived two second-half fumbles on offense.
“We turned the ball over, and that is something we hadn’t done,” Price said. “The quarterback (Basil) was holding the ball a little too long.
“The windows were there; we just gotta see it and we gotta hit it and we gotta get rid of the ball. Corinth’s got a good defense. They got more speed than we have seen all year.
“Our timing wasn’t there tonight.”
The Warriors made things interesting in the end when quarterback Lew Johnson used his arms and legs to get his team into the end zone. Johnson drove his team 57 yards on eight plays to pull his team within seven, as he scored on a 20-yard run.
He ran for 24 yards and threw for 33 yards on the scoring drive.
“It was wide open,” Johnson said of his touchdown run. “I just hit a seam, and broke a tackle about the 5 and just got in.
“Their defense is good. They play a good zone and they don’t give you many passing lanes.”
Corinth’s best scoring chance in the first half was a 49-yard field goal attempt by Jordan Parker with less than 5 minutes to play in the second quarter. The kick came up short.
Despite the miss, Parker, who also punts, was what kept Corinth in the game, said his head coach.
“Our kicking game kept us in the game tonight,” said Jimmy Mitchell. “Our punter did a great job of keeping them in a hole, making them have a long field to work with.”
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal