ZANESVILLE -- The New Albany High School football team's wing-T offense produced big plays and its defense slowed Dresden Tri-Valley’s passing attack, leading the Eagles to a 42-35 win in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal Nov. 9 at Sulsberger Memorial Stadium.
Quarterback Darron Lee and running backs Alan Watson and Leslie Anokye combined for 430 yards rushing on only 35 carries -- an average of 12.3 yards per carry -- as the Eagles improved to 10-2 with their 10th consecutive victory.
New Albany advanced to play Marion-Franklin (11-1) in the regional final Friday, Nov. 9, at a site to be determined.
Tri-Valley, which had beaten the Eagles 24-7 in a regional semifinal last season and 30-27 in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs in 2010, finished 11-1.
“When a team beats you (two) times in a row, well, I wouldn’t say this was revenge, but it is a motivational thing,” New Albany coach Mark Mueller said. “It didn’t sit well with the kids, as you could hear. Tri-Valley is a great team and watching them on film you can see how well they’re coached.”
The Eagles led 28-21 at halftime and 35-21 entering the fourth quarter, but Tri-Valley scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Strock to Trevor Krouskoupf with 6 minutes, 18 seconds remaining to pull within seven points.
However, Watson burst off left tackle on the next play from scrimmage, gashing the Scotties' defense down middle for a 68-yard touchdown run to make it 42-28.
“We needed the big plays and the points tonight because we knew they would put up some points with that offense,” Mueller said. “I coach the defense, so I lost 10 years of my life tonight.”
“We have a great mix of running backs and our offensive line did an outstanding job to give us some holes and we just took advantage,” said Watson, who rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries and added an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Strock, a Kent State recruit and nephew of former Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns quarterback Don Strock, connected with Kris Michael on an 11-yard scoring pass to make it 42-35 with 4:16 remaining and the Scotties got the ball back with the help of their three timeouts after forcing New Albany to punt. However, starting from its own 27 with 2:39 left, Tri-Valley could not manage a first down as Strock threw three incomplete passes and was sacked by Trey Quillin for an 11-yard loss on third down.
New Albany then ran out the clock.
Lee rushed for 152 yards on 10 carries, deftly faking to Watson or Anokye several times, and scored two touchdowns on runs of 85 and 61 yards.
“We have a great trifecta back there and when the blocking is as good as it was tonight, things just open up,” Lee said.
None of the Eagles’ five touchdown drives was more than three plays. The Scotties ran 92 plays on offense compared to 39 for New Albany.
Strock was 23-for-45 passing for 263 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a touchdown. Krouskoupf had eight catches for 82 yards and a score and Michael had seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Austin Jones led the Scotties' running game with 168 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
TV--Strock 15 run (kick failed)
NA--Watson 88 kickoff return (Quillin kick)
TV--Jones 1 run (Jones run)
NA--Watson 71 run (Quillin kick)
NA--Lee 85 run (Quillin kick)
NA--Watson 21 run (Quillin kick)
TV--Reiss 11 pass from Strock (Michael kick)
NA--Lee 61 run (Quillin kick)
TV--Krouskoupf 9 pass from Strock (Michael kick)
NA--Watson 68 run (Quillin kick)
TV--Michael 11 pass from Strock (Michael kick)