The New Albany High School football team forced three turnovers in the first half and cruised to a 45-20 home victory over Licking Valley in the opener for both teams Friday, Aug. 26.
"A lot of people wondered how good we were going to be because we lost a lot of seniors," said quarterback Zach Tomi, whose team won its 15th consecutive regular-season game. "We have a lot of people that have stepped up."
The Eagles used a two-quarterback system to build a 31-7 halftime lead.
Tomi started at quarterback and also played defensive back, where he had an interception in the second quarter.
Tomi set up the Eagles' first score with a 34-yard run on their opening drive. Fullback Connor Wilson capped the nine-play, 92-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter.
One play after Tomi's interception in the second quarter, New Albany gave the ball back. Licking Valley converted the turnover into its first score, a Drew McArtor 4-yard run to close to 9-7 with 9:32 left in the first half.
Darron Lee entered at quarterback for New Albany in the second quarter and connected on a 62-yard touchdown pass to Adam Bodrick for a 31-7 lead with 1:41 left in the first half.
"It's something that we've never had to do at New Albany is play a two-quarterback system," said New Albany coach Mark Mueller, who earned his 50th career win. "The thing about it is both quarterbacks are talented and can do a lot of things and we feel comfortable with both of them."
Lee later had a 75-yard touchdown run to make it 38-14 with 3:58 left in the game.
Dan Brittan set up the first of his two touchdowns, a 2-yard run that made it 16-7, with a 51-yard kickoff return to answer Licking Valley's first score.
New Albany's lead grew to 24-7 on Brittan's second 2-yard TD run, which capped a drive that started at Licking Valley's 23-yard line.
After New Albany took its 16-7 lead with 5:13 left in the second quarter, McArtor fumbled the ensuing kickoff to set up Brittan's first touchdown. McArtor was injured on the play and did not return.
McArtor rushed 12 times for 49 yards. The Eagles ran for 278 yards, led by Lee, who ran four times for 89 yards.
Jay Marshall had two interceptions for New Albany.
"I was nervous but my brothers in (the locker room) helped me keep cool," Lee said. "I think once we got in the flow of things and they helped me to get in the flow of things that helped us get the 'W' out there."
LICKING VALLEY 0 7 7 6 -- 20
NEW ALBANY 9 22 0 14 -- 45
NA -- Wilson 1 run (kick missed)
NA -- Gammill 34 FG
LV -- McArtor 4 run (Wilson kick)
NA -- Brittan 2 run (Gammill kick)
NA -- Brittan 2 run (Wilson pass from Lee)
NA -- Bodrick 62 pass from Lee (Gammill kick)
LV -- Shepherd 4 pass from McClain (kick blocked)
NA -- Lee 75 run (Gammill kick)
LV -- Griffith 18 pass from Garber (kick failed)
NA -- Johnston 80 (Gammill kick)