By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
The New Albany football team has not produced a winning record since 2008 and a sectional championship since 2002.
But that has not dampened the players’ commitment to the Bulldogs’ program this summer.
Third-year New Albany coach Charlie Fields said all of his players participated in summer practices. Plus the number of Bulldog players who will be in the upper three grades this school year have increased to 72.
During the offseason, New Albany has had two practices each week from 9 a.m. to noon. Each practice session has been a mixture of weightlifting, conditioning and what Fields calls, “football activities.”
“We’ve gotten 100 percent attendance. Not one kid has missed a practice,” Fields said. “We’ve been trying to do a lot of team-building things.”
During the practices when the coaches and players work on football items, the Bulldogs have been focusing on a couple of areas.
“We’ve worked on special teams and we’re trying to clean up penalties. We brought officials in during some of our scrimmages to help with penalties,” Fields said.
Along with the practices, New Albany traveled to Bloomington for a one-day football camp at Indiana University in June. Forty varsity players participated in the camp. The IU football team’s coaching staff had the Bulldogs go through some fundamental drills along with them competing in a few 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 scrimmages.
The Bulldogs went back to Bloomington earlier this month to have a controlled scrimmage against Bloomington North. New Albany had a 7-on-7 scrimmage with the Cougars and took part in some 1-on-1 drills. The Bulldogs will have a scrimmage with Charlestown in late July.
New Albany is currently having a quarterback competition this summer. Senior Vincent Falcone and junior Zach Donan are battling for the spot, which became vacant after the graduation of Michael Diehl.
“The competition will make them better,” Fields said. “I have confidence in both players.”
The Bulldogs welcome back last year’s leading rusher in Tuwan Payton, last season’s leading receiver in Ravon Wright and four starting offensive linemen.
Fields says his team does not have a lot of holes to fill on defense. But he said the Bulldogs’ D will miss graduated defensive end Marquil Hastings, who was last season’s leading tackler and sack leader.
“We have a lot of guys coming back. We’re just looking for some depth,” Fields said. “We just worry about getting better every day in practice. As long as we worry about the process of improvement, the record will take care of itself.”
NEW ALBANY BULLDOGS
• Departures: QB/FS Michael Diehl, DE/TE Marquil Hastings, LB/TE A.J. Cleek, DE/FB Jesse Demuth, OL/DL Nick Lynch.
• Key returning players: RB/DB Tuwan Payton (Sr.), WR/DB Ravon Wright (Sr.), DB/WR Corey Grainger (Sr.), QB/K Vincent Falcone (Sr.), WR/DB Keaton Stout (Sr.), QB/CB Zach Donan (Jr.), RB/FS Jeffontae McClain (Sr.), SS/WR Devin Higgins (Sr.), DL/OL Javier Santiago (Sr.), OL/DT Mick Wahking (Sr.), DT/FB Ryhgis Barbour (Sr.), DT/TE Damian McDuffy (Sr.).
• 2012 recap: It was an up-and-down season for the Bulldogs. They started the season 3-1, but then they dropped three of their next four games. After suffering a 22-20 home loss to Seymour in Week 8, New Albany finished the regular season with a winning record by prevailing in a dramatic overtime game at archrival Floyd Central, 28-27. The Bulldogs’ campaign ended in the opening round of Class 5A Sectional 8, falling at rival Jeffersonville 62-35.
• 2013 expectations: New Albany has several players back on both sides of the ball. Payton will lead the New Albany offense, running behind four returning starters on the offensive line. The big question mark on offense is whether Falcone or Donan will be the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. Whoever the signal-caller is, New Albany has several talented wide receivers to get the ball to and make big plays. Defense will face a challenge in finding a pass rusher to replace Hastings. The Bulldogs are in the new Class 6A this season, and will play in Class 6A Sectional 8 with the Red Devils, Center Grove and Columbus North.