Entering Week 9, the all-time series between Floyd Central and New Albany was deadlocked at 23-23, and five of the past 10 matchups were decided by just one point.
Friday’s meeting between the county rivals didn’t disappoint, either, as the Highlanders turned in a 27-14 win over the visiting Bulldogs to secure their seventh win in the past nine games against New Albany.
Floyd Central (6-3, 5-2 Hoosier Hills) totaled 297 yards of offense compared to 410 for the Bulldogs (5-4, 4-3), but the Highlanders’ defense forced four turnovers – three in the first half alone. With the win, Floyd Central reclaimed the rivalry’s Rusty Anchor Trophy.
“It’s a big win for our team. … They’ve got bragging rights for the rest of their lives, the seniors do, and the trophy is back where it belongs,” Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing said.
Junior Jason Cundiff led the Highlanders with 128 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Junior Zach Rodgers, who missed two games this season due to a right leg injury sustained against Columbus East, totaled 87 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries and came up big for Floyd Central on defense, as did senior Michael Sans.
GALLERY: Floyd Central tops New Albany
New Albany’s Darquan Richardson carried the ball 41 times for 165 yards and a touchdown. The junior entered Friday’s game hobbled with a right foot injury. Sophomore De Tre Payton recorded 13 touches in Richardson’s absence and totaled 133 total yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Devon Gummer hauled in four catches for 80 of sophomore quarterback Dylan Clark’s 127 passing yards. Leading receiver Davin Alexander, a senior, was also unavailable for the Bulldogs on Friday.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons. … I’m happy with the way we played the football game,” Glesing said. “That’s a great team. That’s a team with a winning record.
“It’s a big deal to beat New Albany.”
Floyd Central led 7-0 at the break behind a 27-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Matthew Weimer to senior tight end Bradley Philpot. The Bulldogs turned it over on the game’s opening drive by way of a failed fourth-down conversion.
New Albany totaled 168 yards of first-half offense, spearheaded by Richardson’s 124 yards on 25 carries, but turned it over on three of its four possessions. The Bulldogs turned it over on downs at the Floyd Central 11-yard line to end the first half after Richardson coughed it up at the goal line earlier in the second quarter. Sophomore Tyler Edwards made the play for the Highlanders.
A 32-yard rush then helped set up a 20-yard touchdown run by Rodgers to give Floyd Central a 13-0 lead in the third quarter before Payton made his mark. The sophomore’s 38-yard dash aided a 10-yard, 80-yard scoring drive for the Bulldogs to make it 13-8 with 5:24 left in the third.
The Highlanders punched in another score on their ensuing possession, as Rodgers’ 43-yard gain led to an eight-yard scamper by the junior two plays later. Floyd Central led 19-8 at the end of the third quarter before Richardson’s one-yard plunge brought the Bulldogs within 19-14.
New Albany forced a turnover on downs on Floyd Central’s ensuing possession, but on the Bulldogs’ fourth-down try, Rodgers came up big yet again. His diving knockdown of Clark’s first-down attempt gave the ball right back to Floyd Central after four plays.
“They deserve to win because they executed and didn’t turn it over,” New Albany coach Sean Coultis said. “You can point to certain things, but those aren’t excuses. An excuse is a justification of failure, and we don’t do that. They deserve to win.”
Cundiff’s one-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter after another 20-yard run by Rodgers then sealed the final score.
“We bent, but didn’t break,” Glesing said. “Did just enough offensively to win the game.”
Floyd Central begins postseason play with a sectional matchup at Bedford North Lawrence on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m., while New Albany hosts Columbus North.
New Albany: 0 – 0 – 8 – 6 – 14
Floyd Central: 7 – 0 – 12 – 8 – 27
F – Bradley Philpot 27 pass from Matthew Weimer (Cole Hussing kick good), 3:38
F – Zach Rodgers 20 run (Hussing kick no good), 9:50
N – De Tre Payton 7 run (Two-point conversion good), 5:24
F – Rodgers 8 run (Two-point conversion failed), 3:04
N – Darquan Richardson 1 run (Two-point conversion failed), 9:17
F – Jason Cundiff 1 run (Two-point conversion good), 3:17