All the shortcomings that have hampered the New Albany High School football team for the past month gave way last night to a sound performance that couldn’t have come at a better time.
Trey Quillin rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and Hayden Hatten and George Kalec led a defensive effort that limited previously unbeaten Mansfield Senior to 5 yards rushing as the Eagles pulled out a 26-22 win in a Division II, Region 5 semifinal on Nov. 15 at Olentangy Liberty.
“If you want to win in November, you run the ball and play great defense,” New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. “It’s not the prettiest thing in the world and it won’t pack people into the stands, but those guys up front buy into everything we do. Eleven guys ran to the football and contained a great offense.”
Sparked by Quillin’s scoring runs of 45 yards and 1 yard in the first half, top-seeded New Albany (11-1) rolled up 339 of its 393 yards on the ground. The Eagles will play third-seeded Zanesville (12-0) in a regional final Nov. 22 at a site to be determined.
Jalen Reese’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Chek Washington midway through the first quarter gave Mansfield Senior (11-1) the early lead, but Quillin tied it with a 45-yard run on fourth-and-1 early in the second.
“I’ve usually been a lighter guy, so I’m used to running fast,” said Quillin, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound fullback. “As I’ve put on more weight, I put on speed, too. The funny thing is (the touchdowns) were supposed to be short-yardage plays and I was just able to find a hole.”
Reese found Mitch Nixon for a score from 10 yards on the Tygers’ following possession, but New Albany drew within 14-13 on its next series. A bad snap prevented the extra-point try.
Joey Rolwing’s 40-yard field goal to end the first half gave New Albany a 16-14 lead. Rolwing, a sophomore, added a 44-yard field goal on the Eagles’ first drive of the second half.
Mansfield Senior — which gained 219 of its 224 yards through the air — didn’t break into positive yardage on the ground until late in the third quarter. Reese threw a 17-yard touchdown to Washington with 1:44 left in the third to give the Tygers a 22-19 lead, but Eagles quarterback Tanner Cline scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
From there, the Eagles leaned on a defense led by Hatten, a senior linebacker and the district Defensive Player of the Year who sat out almost the entire week of practice after injuring his left ankle in a first-round win over Northland.
Hatten led a ball-hawking unit that included Kalec, Jack Schroer, cornerbacks Tyrell Howard and Jalen Ward and senior safety Joe Siegenthaler, who returned after missing two-plus games with a meniscus injury.
Mansfield Senior entered the game averaging 39 points.
“It was hard not being able to prepare out on the field, so I knew I had to watch as much film and soak up as much information as I could,” Hatten said. “No matter how well we thought we could play, we couldn’t have seen holding them to 5 yards (rushing).”
Plagued by fumbles for the past four weeks, including six against Northland, New Albany lost the ball only once against the Tygers. But if not for its defense, that one could have been costly.
With the Eagles looking to put the game away with under four minutes left, Ward fumbled at Mansfield Senior’s 29 to give the Tygers a final chance. Mansfield Senior reached its own 45, but Reese’s pass to Mario Davison fell short with 26 seconds left.
M—Washington 40 from Reese (Blackstone kick)
NA—Quillin 45 run (Rolwing kick)
M—Nixon 10 from Reese (Blackstone kick)
NA—Quillin 1 run (kick failed)
NA—Rolwing 40 FG
NA—Rolwing 44 FG
M—Washington 17 from Reese (Reese pass to Wilder)
NA—Cline 1 run (Rolwing kick)