New Albany gets another shot at Tri-Valley


New Albany High School football coach Mark Mueller repeated the message at least three times during the postgame huddle after the Eagles defeated Beechcroft 25-6 in a Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game Nov. 2.

Mueller wanted his team to enjoy the win, but he implored the players to show up to a film session the next morning hungry and ready to improve.

"We want to keep on going 1-0 every week," he said. "You eat an elephant one bite at a time. We'll go dissect this film, move on to the next week and whoever we play, we play. It'll be good no matter who they are."

Mueller's choice of words might have been a coincidence, but the Eagles won't argue that two consecutive season-ending losses to this week's regional semifinal opponent, Dresden Tri-Valley, are the elephant in the room that now becomes the team's singular focus.

"We've been talking about celebrating the win tonight, but I know what I'm focused on already, and that's Tri-Valley," senior running back Alan Watson said after the Beechcroft game. "It's our third time meeting up with Tri-Valley and I'm pumped for it. I want to play them tonight. Can't wait."

The Eagles and Scotties play at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Zanesville.

In a Region 7 first-round game in 2010, seventh-seeded Tri-Valley knocked off second-seeded New Albany 30-27 in double overtime. Last year, the third-seeded Eagles lost a Region 7 semifinal 24-7 to the second-seeded Scotties.

This year, Tri-Valley is 11-0 and the top seed in Region 7. The Scotties advanced by defeating eighth-seeded New Carlisle Tecumseh 47-29 in a first-round game Nov. 2.

Watson ran for 146 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries against Beechcroft to power fourth-seeded New Albany to its ninth consecutive win. Junior linebacker Nick Clemons and senior receiver/defensive back Joe Siegenthaler intercepted Beechcroft quarterback Maurice Hale and the Eagles allowed only 47 rushing yards.

"We knew (Hale) was the key," Mueller said. "One thing we were confident in is our speed, even on this wet turf. We were confident a lot of our defensive linemen could chase him down.

"(Our defense) is a unit where some people will step up certain days. Joe had a big pick tonight. The defensive linemen went and got him. They understand we're all a unit with offense, defense and special teams. We all help each other."

Tri-Valley and Tecumseh were tied at 14 in the second quarter, but Scotties tailback Austin Jones ran for 268 yards on 31 carries and quarterback Nathan Strock was 13 of 17 passing for 199 yards as the Scotties rolled up 513 total yards.

Tri-Valley is averaging 48.4 points and has been held to fewer than 40 points just three times, against Licking Valley (29-14 on Aug. 24), Dover (28-21 on Sept. 14) and New Concord John Glenn (32-0 on Oct. 11).

Strock, a Kent State recruit and nephew of former Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns quarterback Don Strock, is 127 of 204 passing for 2,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has rushed for 471 yards and four touchdowns on 99 carries.

Jones has 1,727 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns on 188 carries, senior Daniel Scott has 574 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 63 carries and senior receiver Trevor Krous-koupf has 40 catches for 737 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jones, also a linebacker, leads the Scotties' defense with 68.5 tackles and five sacks.

After starting the season allowing 22 points per game the first four weeks, New Albany's defense has allowed just 10.6 points per game the past seven weeks.

"All I know is we have to go 1-0 (this) week," Clemons said. "Just go win another game."