By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
With rivals New Albany and Jeffersonville tied at 1-1 midway through the second half at Prosser Field on Tuesday, Jeffersonville senior Austin Ali unexpectedly found the ball at his feet just a few yards from the goal.
The ball had bounced off of a pair of Red Devils in the New Albany box and Ali found himself wide open in front of the net. Ali, who later left with an ankle injury, buried the shot to give the Red Devils a 2-1 lead.
New Albany never seriously threatened to score again and Ali’s shot held up as the game-winning goal.
“The ball squirted through and I had just enough on it to put it in,” Ali recalled.
“He crashed the goal,” Jeffersonville coach Carson Webb said of Ali’s game-winner. “I give him a ton of credit for doing that. That’s just a kid giving a ton of effort. That kind of effort got him hurt later in the game. I’m really proud of Austin.”
New Albany coach Dutch Vigar’s perspective on Ali’s game-winner was a little different.
“You give them the ball in front of your goal, what do you expect?” Vigar said.
After beating the Bulldogs 4-0 a year ago, it looked like it would be more of the same on Tuesday when Jeff scored less than two minutes into the contest.
Red Devil senior Leonard Kwitonda beat two Bulldog defenders down the right side of the field and centered a pass for Isaiah Salazar, who put the ball in the top-left corner from five yards out past a diving New Albany goalkeeper Ryan Castleberry with 38:13 still left on the first-half clock.
“He does that all the time,” Webb said of Salazar. “He does that all the time. He can score. He’s very solid on the ball. He’s a workhorse. The kids refer to him as a beast, and I have to agree.”
While Salazar got credit for the goal, it was Kwitonda who did most of the work on the play.
“Leonard spreads teams out,” Webb said. “It’s no secret. The problem is sometimes in the attacking third we turn into spectators.”
Webb thinks scoring so quickly actually slowed his team down for the remainder of the contest.
“We’ve [scored early] a few games in a row and we’ve had a little bit of a letdown [after the first goal],” Webb said. “We get that first goal and I think in our heads we think we’re going to roll off five goals in a row and we start getting lazy and going through the motions and getting into bad habits.”
New Albany (4-6-1) tied the match late in the first half when freshman Coen Beach broke away and put a shot on goal. Beach’s shot was stopped by Jeff keeper Luis Arredondo, but Santiago Lazaro booted in the rebound.
“Good combination play,” Vigar said.
It was a strong performance by a Bulldog team that had been beaten 4-0 by Jeff a year ago and 5-1 by Floyd Central just five days ago.
“I thought we played a solid game, just too many mistakes. That’s it,” Vigar said.
“They’re a lot better,” Webb said of the Bulldogs. “They’re organized. Dutch does a great job of getting them playing the right way.”
Jeffersonville improved to 11-2-2 overall and stayed on top of the Hoosier Hills Conference with a 4-0-1 league mark with the triumph.
“It was an emotional rivalry game, and as much as you try to prepare for those, it’s hard to get that mindset, especially in a young team,” Webb said. “I’m pleased with getting the win. We could have done a lot of things better. But at the end of the game, it’s a win — a conference win, a rivalry win against a good team.”
Despite losing several All-Area players from last year’s sectional championship team, Webb had high expectations for this year’s Red Devils. However, even Webb is impressed with the team’s play through 15 games.
“To put it into perspective, at the beginning of the year before we played a game, with the kids we lost last year, we’re 11-2-2 going into the final week of the season. I would say you can’t ask for anything better than that,” he said. “But if I’m happy, then we’re done. We need to celebrate the win tonight and go back and get better.”
Jeff has another rivalry game next when it will host Providence on Saturday evening before finishing the regular season with Floyd Central and Columbus East. New Albany will host East on Senior Day on Saturday.
JEFFERSONVILLE 2, NEW ALBANY 1
Jeffersonville 1 1—2
New Albany 1 0—1
J — Isaiah Salazar (Leonard Kwitonda), 2nd min.
N — Santiago Lazaro (Coen Beach), 31st.
J — Austin Ali (unassisted), 59th.
Shots: Jeffersonville 12, New Albany 9.
Shots on goal: Jeffersonville 4, New Albany 4.
Scoring chances: Jeffersonville 8, New Albany 5.
Saves: Jeffersonville — Luis Arredondo 3; New Albany — Ryan Castleberry 1, Nick Davis 1.
Fouls: Jeffersonville 9, New Albany 3.
Corners: Jeffersonville 8, New Albany 2.
Cards: New Albany — Leslie Chu (yellow).