Michiah Burton liked what he saw from his New Albany High School football teammates even before they took the field for a key OCC-Capital Division game Oct. 20 at Franklin Heights.
“We had to dominate every phase,” said Burton, a senior running back. “The look in everybody’s eyes when we came out of the locker room just told me we were ready. We got off the ball fast and stayed low. The guys up front did an incredible job.”
Behind an efficient offensive line, Burton rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries to lead the Eagles to a 55-36 win that kept them in contention for the OCC-Capital Division championship.
Alex Cox added 174 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries as New Albany gained 329 of its 476 total yards on the ground to complement a defense that registered seven sacks.
The Eagles — who were coming off their first shutout loss in almost 12 years — improved to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Capital. New Albany is a game behind league-leading Big Walnut but would earn a share of the championship Oct. 27 with a win over Groveport and a loss by the Golden Eagles to Canal Winchester. New Albany fell 14-0 to Big Walnut on Oct. 13.
Burton scored on runs of 5, 11 and 25 yards and Cox added a 12-yard scoring run as the Eagles led 28-0 early in the second quarter.
“We really challenged those guys this week to step up,” New Albany coach Pat Samanich said. “They had a physical week of practice, more than we’d like to have at this stage of the season, but they responded.”
The Eagles temporarily invoked a running clock less than two minutes into the second half when Jalin Jackson hit a wide-open Tyler Martinkovich in the end zone from 10 yards for what turned out to be the winning touchdown.
Franklin Heights quarterback Cody Little was 8-for-13 passing for 114 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Chris Hampton added 105 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 14 carries for the Falcons, who fell to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the league.
“When somebody challenges you, you have two choices — fight or flight,” Samanich said. “What I saw from our guys, like all year long, is that fight is still there. That’s what I’m most optimistic and proud about.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final NEW ALBANY 14 20 14 7 55 FRANKLIN HEIGHTS
0 6 6 24 36
NA—Burton 5 run (Paragas kick)
NA—Cox 12 run (Paragas kick)
NA—Burton 11 run (Paragas kick)
NA—Burton 25 run (Paragas kick)
FH—Hampton 13 run (kick failed)
NA—Muter 16 pass from Jackson (kick failed)
NA—Martinkovich 10 pass from Jackson (Paragas kick)
FH—Little 41 run (kick blocked)
NA—Thomas 5 run (Paragas kick)
FH—Slark 28 pass from Little (Slark pass from Little)
NA—Cox 20 run (Paragas kick)
FH—Reeves 52 pass from Little (Hampton run)
FH—Hampton 1 run (Hampton pass from Little)