The New Albany High School football team suddenly finds itself in a battle for the OCC-Capital Division championship, a playoff spot and a chance to be healthy with two games left in the regular season.
The Eagles visit Franklin Heights on Friday, Oct. 20, seven days after being held to 81 total yards in a 14-0 loss to Big Walnut in which they saw their starting quarterback injured.
"They played more physical than we did in the trenches. Quite frankly, they wanted it more and that's on me," coach Pat Samanich said. "Our defense played well enough to keep us in the game, but we had a few breakdowns. We must be better offensively."
New Albany and Franklin Heights both are 4-4 overall.
Eagles quarterback Jalin Jackson, who has started for the past month, suffered what Samanich described as a groin injury. He was replaced by Luke Muter, who completed one of seven passes for 9 yards. According to Samanich, Jackson was "day to day" entering the week.
Gabe Owusu-Antwi rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries to lead New Albany. Michiah Burton added 31 yards on 10 carries.
The loss, New Albany's first by shutout since Oct. 28, 2005, when it fell 16-0 at Licking Valley, meant the Eagles were projected to be sixth in this week's Division II, Region 7 computer ratings. The top eight teams make the playoffs and the top four earn home games in the first round.
Big Walnut's win over New Albany, its first since 2014, put the Golden Eagles alone in first place in the OCC-Capital at 3-0 and helped create a logjam among the next four teams that will be cleared somewhat this week.
Franklin Heights and New Albany both are 2-1, and Canal Winchester and Newark are 1-2. The Indians play host to the Wildcats on Friday, Oct. 20.
After trailing Canal Winchester 19-7 at halftime on Oct. 13, Franklin Heights scored 13 unanswered points to pull off a 20-19 win. Kesean Reeves caught 14 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns and Jeremy Romans added field goals of 25 and 21 yards, the latter of which was the game-winner in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Cody Little completed 21 of 32 passes for 277 yards and rushed for 79 yards on 20 carries.
"(Little) is a calm, cool customer with an ability to extend plays. They're able to spread your defense from sideline to sideline," Samanich said. "We still have our goals (a league championship and playoff berth) in front of us. With this schedule we play, we're going to take some losses. We have to know how to respond."