Canal Winchester High School football players gave themselves time to catch their breath before breaking into a jubilant but controlled celebration after a 30-28 win at New Albany on Sept. 28 in the OCC-Capital Division opener for both teams.

The Indians, who led by 20 points with four minutes to play in the third quarter but ended up escaping when a two-point conversion pass fell incomplete with just over a minute left in the game, gained an early upper hand in the league race, their first win over the Eagles in three meetings and potentially valuable points in Division II, Region 7.

“We’ve always struggled beating New Albany and we’ve struggled to win the league,” Canal Winchester quarterback Jack Beeler said. “The way we are playing right now, we are playing confident and we feel like there aren’t too many teams that can stop us. We wanted to throw some screens, we had some good blocking by receivers and that really helped us set up our run game later.”

Stephan Byrd rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to lead the Indians, who improved to 5-1, and took a screen pass 74 yards in the first quarter to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Tyler Toledo.

New Albany answered two plays later when Alex Cox took a screen pass from Luke Muter 80 yards to the end zone to tie it at 7, but Byrd and Beeler scored from 4 and 10 yards, respectively, to make it 20-7 at halftime.

Canal Winchester fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half but forced a three-and-out before going on a 14-play, 95-yard drive that ate up more than five minutes. Byrd capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 27-7 lead.

“We made them do what they don’t want to do and throw the ball. We didn’t give up a lot of ground tonight against one of the best running teams in central Ohio,” Indians coach Josh Stratton said. “Their coaching staff is so good with constantly making adjustments that we knew we’d have to fight to the end … but our kids were confident the whole game. Not one of them hung their heads.”

Cox scored from 9 yards early in the fourth quarter to bring New Albany within 30-14 before Muter threw touchdown passes of 13 and 2 yards to Michiah Burton in the final 6 minutes, 5 seconds. The second came with 1:09 to go, but the conversion try fell short as New Albany dropped to 3-3.

“You can’t just play the last 11 minutes of a game and expect to win,” New Albany coach Bubba Kidwell said. “We didn’t get defensive stops when we needed to and gave up too many big plays.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final CANAL WINCHESTER 7 13 7 3 30 NEW ALBANY
7 0 0 21 28

CW—Toledo 4 run (Musick kick)

NA—Cox 80 pass from Muter (Rogers kick)

CW—Byrd 4 run (kick blocked)

CW—Beeler 10 run (Musick kick)

CW—Byrd 5 run (Musick kick)

NA—Cox 9 run (Rogers kick)

CW—Musick 34 FG

NA—Burton 13 pass from Muter (Burton pass from Muter)

NA—Burton 2 pass from Muter (pass failed)