By GREG BURTON
Special to Southern Indiana Preps
NEW ALBANY — Like a boxer landing blow after blow and wearing his opponent down, Floyd Central pounded away at New Albany on Friday night at Buerk Field.
The Highlanders scored on nearly every possession and emerged as 49-28 winners in the Hoosier Hills Conference game and regular-season finale for both teams.
“Time of possession and keeping their potent offense off the field was the key to the game,” said Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing.
Class 5A No. 7 Floyd Central (7-2, 6-1 HHC) scored on each of its first four possessions, landing offensive blow after offensive blow on the host Bulldogs (5-4, 4-3).
“We were playing at times with about six or seven guys on defense,” said New Albany coach Steve Cooley. “They just powered us over, and we had trouble tackling their backs. We’ll go back to the drawing board on Monday and fix some things, and we’ll put 11 kids on there that know what their job is and do it.”
New Albany put together an 11-play drive to open the game. But it stalled at the Floyd Central 32-yard line, and the Bulldogs gave the ball up on downs.
Floyd Central capitalized immediately, and six plays later it scored on a 15-yard run by Devon Stikes. The drive got going with a Matt Weimer to Braxton Cerqueira pass for 21 yards. Stikes also had a 12-yard run and Zach Rodgers broke free for a 19-yard run, setting up Stikes’ TD run.
New Albany answered the bell with a score of its own when Darquan Richardson romped 45 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at seven.
That was about the end for the Bulldogs, though. On the ensuing kickoff, the Highlanders’ Brandon Stiegel returned the ball 80 yards for the score.
“The kickoff return they ran back for a touchdown, that was big,” said Cooley.
What happened next, though, may have been the beginning of the end. New Albany coughed up the ball on a fumble, and then Floyd Central put together a 10-play drive, ending with a Jason Cundiff 1-yard run for a score to put the Highlanders up 21-7 in the second quarter.
Floyd’s next possession lasted just three plays, the final one being a Weimer-to-Jon Gunn 68-yard completion for the score. At this point it appeared a rout was imminent, as the Highlanders led 28-7.
New Albany put points on the board with a little more than 3 minutes remaining in the half when Richardson found the end zone again. This time it was from 6 yards out, and the Bulldogs were within 14 points with 3:07 left before halftime.
Floyd Central was forced to punt — its only punt of the night — on its next possession. But New Albany failed to catch the punt. The ball rolled over 20 yards after hitting the ground, and the punt went for 54 yards total.
“There were little things,” said Cooley. “We shot ourselves in the foot tonight. We didn’t field that punt, and that made a huge difference in yardage. That was 26 yards we lost.”
The resulting yardage might have made a difference for the Bulldogs. They moved the ball down to the Floyd Central 25-yard line with enough time left for one play prior to intermission. However, an incomplete pass ended the half.
The third quarter fairly well told the tale of the game. Floyd Central had possession for every play except for four during the period. New Albany’s only possession resulted in a three-and-out, while the Highlanders ran 14 plays from scrimmage.
The only score of the third quarter was a Weimer-to-Cerqueira 43-yard touchdown, and the Highlanders led 35-14 going into the final period.
“Getting that stop at the end of the first half was huge,” said Glesing, “and then starting the second half we marched down the field and score and set the tone.”
“I knew going in we needed two stops in the first half for this to be a game,” said Cooley. “We needed to get off the field twice, and we didn’t.”
Floyd Central started the final quarter by continuing a drive it had begun in the third period. Three plays later, the Highlanders scored on a 3-yard run by Cundiff, making the score 42-14. New Albany scored twice in the final quarter. Richardson found the end zone for the third time on a 3-yard run. He scored for the fourth time later when he hooked up with Dylan Clark for a 22-yard score.
Floyd Central scored its final touchdown on a 34-yard run by Tyler Edwards. The Bulldogs recovered an onside kick after their final score, but gave the ball up on downs, essentially ending the game.
“We made some plays and tried to come back, but you can’t dig yourself a 49-point hole,” said Cooley.
Each team will have a first-round bye in the first week of Class 5A Sectional 15 action. Then they will face each other in the sectional semifinals Friday, Oct. 27 at Buerk Field.
FLOYD CENTRAL 49, NEW ALBANY 28
Floyd Central 14 14 7 14—49
New Albany 7 7 0 14—28
FC — Devon Stikes 15 run (Cole Hussung kick), 5:30.
NA — Darquan Richardson 45 run (Noah Litzelswope kick), 3:29.
FC — Brandon Striegel 80 kickoff return (Hussung kick), 3:15.
FC — Jason Cundiff 1 run (Hussung kick), 8:02.
FC — Jon Gunn 68 pass from Matt Weimer (Hussung kick), 5:02.
NA — Richardson 6 run (Litzelswope kick), 3:07.
FC — Braxton Cerqueira 43 pass from Weimer (Hussung kick), 7:58
FC — Cundiff 4 run (Hussung kick), 10:31.
NA — Richardson 3 run (Litzelswope kick), 9:06.
FC — Tyler Edwards 34 run (Hussung kick), 5:43.
NA — Richardson 22 pass from Clark (Litzelswope kick), 4:32.