Behind big plays from Kevin Collins and Darron Lee, the New Albany High School football team beat visiting Ashland 51-37 in a Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game on Friday, Nov. 4.
Collins scored on two runs and a kickoff return and Lee had an interception return for a score and a touchdown run, as the third-seeded Eagles improved to 9-2 and advanced to a regional semifinal for the first time since 2006.
Ashland finished 6-5.
New Albany will play second-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley on Nov. 11 at a site to be determined. The Eagles lost to Tri-Valley 30-27 in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“Coming into the game, we were really focused all week because of the (loss to Tri-Valley) last year,” Collins said. “All week we were thinking about redemption. We had five turnovers, but our defense stepped up when we needed it to. We just have playmakers that can make plays.”
After scoring on touchdown runs of 41 and 35 yards in the first quarter, Collins opened the second half by returning the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown , giving New Albany a 37-32 lead.
Lee sealed the win with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, which gave the Eagles a 51-30 lead with 2 minutes, 41 seconds left. He also had a 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put New Albany ahead 44-23.
“They made some great plays and they have great speed out there,” Ashland coach Scott Valentine said. “We just didn't take some good angles and New Albany made big plays. That's just playoff football.”
Collins' two touchdown runs in the first half helped put New Albany ahead 14-3, but Ashland scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter aided by two special-teams miscues by New Albany.
Ashland recovered a short kickoff at New Albany's 17-yard line and five plays later running back Jacob Allton scored on a 1-yard run, giving the Arrows a 17-14 lead with 8:48 left in the second quarter.
Ashland's Seth Shakley then recovered a fumble on New Albany’s next possession, leading to a 48-yard field goal by Greg Gallaway that put the Arrows ahead 20-14 with 7:05 left in the half.
New Albany regained the lead 21-20 after a 2-yard touchdown run by Dan Brittan, who set up the scoring drive with a 37-yard punt return to the Eagles’ 38-yard line.
After Gallaway made a 42-yard field goal to give Ashland a 23-21 lead with 2:57 left in the half, New Albany drove 45 yards in eight plays, capping the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Zach Tomi. Tomi then threw to Brittan for the two-point conversion, putting the Eagles ahead 27-23.
Ashland scored its first touchdown on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Zach Bernhard to Marquise Jones.
Dan Brittan led New Albany’s offense with79 yards rushing and a touchdown on nine carries. Tomi was 6-for-9 passing for 77 yards.
Ashland quarterback Zach Bernhard was 21-for-42 passing for 245 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
ASHLAND 3 20 7 7 -- 30
NEW ALBANY 7 22 15 7 -- 51
NA --Collins 41 run (Gammill kick)
A--Gallaway 22 FG
NA--Collins 35 run (Gammill kick)
A--Jones 65 pass from Bernhard (Gallaway kick)
A--Allton 1 run (Gallaway kick)
A--Gallaway 48 FG
NA--Brittan 2 run (Gammill kick)
NA--Gallaway 42 FG
NA--Tomi 9 run (Brittan pass from Tomi)
NA--Collins 97 kickoff return (Tomi run)
NA--Lee 22 run (Gammill kick)
A--Wolbert 2 fumble return (Gallaway kick)
NA--Lee 100 interception return (Gammill kick)
A--Nardo 5 pass from Bernhard (Gallaway kick)