Eagles (8-1, 5-1 in OCC-Capital) Yellow Jackets (6-3, 4-2)
Turnovers and missed chances have plagued the New Albany High School football team the past two weeks.
The Eagles still have a chance to share their fifth consecutive OCC-Capital Division title, but their chance to win it outright as well as enjoy the fourth undefeated regular season in program history ended with a 14-12 loss to visiting Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 25.
New Albany, which was ranked first in Division II in last week's state poll, effectively was handcuffed by the Wolves, with the offense amassing only 168 total yards and producing one touchdown and two field goals.
"Football comes down to who's not going to make mistakes, and we made mistakes," coach Pat Samanich said. "Losses can be valuable because they're going to teach us. We have to make sure we learn and correct the mistakes. We have a chance to be in the postseason. We still have many goals to reach."
After overcoming three lost fumbles to defeat Big Walnut 13-10 on Oct. 18, New Albany lost a fumble and threw an interception against Kilbourne. The Wolves harassed senior quarterback Tanner Cline into a 1-for-13 passing night, with the only completion a 6-yard touchdown to senior receiver Ross Henze in the fourth quarter to make it 14-12. The ensuing two-point conversion try failed.
Now, New Albany must defeat host Mount Vernon on Friday, Nov. 1, in its regular-season finale and have Kilbourne lose to 1-8 Olentangy Orange the same night to share the league title. Mount Vernon lost to Olentangy 38-27 on Oct. 25 to fall to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital.
The Eagles hope they will have the services of senior receiver/defensive back Joe Siegenthaler, who left the Kilbourne game late in the first half with an apparent knee injury and did not return. Samanich said after the game that Siegenthaler hopefully would play at Mount Vernon.
"Joe is our go-to guy on offense. He's our center fielder on defense and our big-time special teams player. That's like (losing) three guys," Samanich said.
Mount Vernon couldn't sustain its strong start against Olentangy, after junior running back J.D. Orr scored two of his three touchdowns within the first 2 minutes, 30 seconds of the game. Those runs were of 70 and 95 yards, and Orr later added a 3-yard score.
Junior quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald, a former Newark Catholic player who transferred to Mount Vernon before this school year, leads the Yellow Jackets' offense. They already have clinched their first winning season since 2010 and second since 2003.
The Eagles were projected to be third in Region 5 in this week's computer rankings. The top four teams play host to first-round playoff games.
"We're not used to losing games around here," Samanich said. "That's a luxury, and that's a testament to these kids and coaches. But we have to make sure we learn from it or it's a wasted night."