The New Albany High School football team’s offense returned just one starter from last year’s Division II, Region 7 runner-up team, but running back James Smith wasn’t sure where he’d fit in.
He got an idea last night in the Eagles’ season opener at Reynoldsburg, turning the last of his 14 carries into the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime as the Eagles outlasted the Raiders 36-35.
“When we called the play, they looked to me. I said ‘touchdown’ before I even scored. My guys told me to look for the hole,” said Smith, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior and first-year starter who rushed for 85 yards and scored from 5 yards in the first overtime. “This is the greatest feeling I have ever had. Whatever this team needs me to do, I’ll do it. I’ve wanted this opportunity for a long time.”
Reynoldsburg trailed 20-9 early in the fourth quarter but still had a golden opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation.
Jacob Cicak’s second touchdown of the night, from 1 run, made it 20-15 with 9:45 to go. Raiders quarterback Conner McCloud threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Young with 48 seconds to go, and Young’s 2-point conversion tied it at 23.
Then three plays into New Albany’s next possession, Ashton Dulin intercepted Jalen Ward near his own 30 and zigged and zagged his way almost to the goal line before appearing to slow down. He was dragged down by New Albany’s Jack Burgdoerfer at the 4.
“Jack got whacked around the 40-yard line, got back up and saw (Dulin) cut and he took him down,” New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. “That’s just great effort.”
Dulin caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the first overtime, and both kickers missed their extra-point attempts.
In the second overtime, McCloud scored from 7 yards to get Reynoldsburg within 36-35, but overthrew Dulin on the would-be game-winning two-point conversion.
Christo Semertsidis and Jalen Ward rushed for touchdowns of 41 and 13 yards, respectively, in the third quarter and on the first play of the fourth to stake New Albany to a 20-9 lead. Ward also threw a 43-yard touchdown to Titus Williams.
“You can’t make the mistakes we made against a good football team and expect to win,” Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White said. “We made the key ones tonight.”
NA—Rolwing 25 FG
NA—Rolwing 39 FG
R—Cicak 2 run (McCloud kick)
NA—Semertsidis 14 run (Rolwing kick)
NA—Williams 43 pass from Ward (Rolwing kick)
R—Cicak 1 run (pass failed)
NA—Rolwing 37 FG
R—Young 80 pass from McCloud (Young run)
R—Dulin 19 pass from McCloud (kick failed)
NA—Smith 5 kick (kick failed)
NA—Smith 4 run (Rolwing kick)
R—McCloud 7 run (pass failed)