PIQUA — The momentum that the New Albany High School football team gained by erasing a 10-point deficit in the Division II, Region 7 final carried over to its state semifinal against Trotwood-Madison on Nov. 23.
However, the Eagles didn't take advantage of enough of their scoring opportunities to derail the defending state champion Rams.
Among the chances was a missed 27-yard field-goal attempt by Joe Rolwing with 30 seconds left, as New Albany lost 33-32 at Piqua's Alexander Stadium to finish 11-3.
Two two-point conversion tries failed and Rolwing, a freshman, also missed two extra-point attempts as the Eagles’ 11-game winning streak was snapped.
Trotwood-Madison improved to 12-2 and advanced to play Toledo Central Catholic (13-1) in the state final at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
“You can’t put it all on a freshman kicker,” New Albany coach Mark Mueller said. “We missed plenty of chances. We left a lot of points on the board.”
The teams combined for 612 yards rushing, with New Albany outgaining Trotwood-Madison 309-303. Rams running back Isreal Green, a 5-foot-8, 202-pound senior, led the way with 221 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. He scored from 2 and 1 yards to stake the Rams to a 14-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
Leslie Anokye rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries to lead New Albany, which was attempting to reach its first state final.
As they did Nov. 16 when they trailed 16-6 in the first five minutes before defeating Marion-Franklin 32-30 in the regional final, the Eagles got back into the game.
Anokye scored from 12 yards two minutes into the second quarter to make it 14-6. After Rams freshman quarterback Merritt DeWeaver threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Breland Cospy midway through the quarter for a 20-6 lead, New Albany needed only four plays to answer. Anokye scored on a 13-yard run to make it 20-12 and Eagles quarterback Darron Lee followed with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Joe Siegenthaler with 46 seconds left in the first half to make it 20-18.
“Joe made some huge plays and we knew we just had to run up the middle and play our game,” Anokye said. “Our last couple games we’ve been down, so we didn’t lose our composure.”
Alan Watson capped the Eagles’ first possession of the second half -- a 13-play, 69-yard drive -- with a 1-yard touchdown run and then scored the two-point conversion on a run to give New Albany a 26-20 lead.
“We stuck to what we did well,” Mueller said. “We got timely stops. In the second and third quarters, we made them punt the ball and, when we ran the ball, we were able to put the ball in the end zone.”
The Eagles couldn’t capitalize on a fumbled punt at midfield, as they turned the ball over on downs after failing to get the first down on fourth-and-5 at the Trotwood-Madison 31. The Rams made them pay, capping a 69-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard run by Cospy to take a 27-26 lead.
Anokye scored on a 49-yard run on a draw play with 5:18 to play, but the Eagles were stopped on the two-point conversion attempt and led 32-27. The Rams answered with a touchdown, as Green scored on a 37-yard run to make it 33-32.
On New Albany's final drive, Lee had a 19-yard run and Watson had a 27-yard run to help get the Eagles to Trotwood-Madison’s 10-yard line with 35 seconds left without a timeout.
“We just needed a couple more plays in the end,” Lee said.
TM--Green 2 run (E. Cospy kick)
TM--Green 1 run (E. Cospy kick)
NA--Anokye 12 run (kick failed)
TM--B. Cospy 4 pass from DeWeaver (kick failed)
NA--Anokye 13 run (kick failed)
NA--Siegenthaler 22 pass from Lee (pass failed)
NA--Watson 1 run (Watson run)
TM--B. Cospy 2 run (E. Cospy kick)
NA--Anokye 49 run (run failed)
TM--Green 37 run (pass failed)