By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Last season at Ron Weigleb Stadium, New Albany spoiled Floyd Central’s Senior Night with a dramatic 28-27 overtime victory to reclaim the Anchor Trophy.
On Friday night at Buerk Field, it was the Highlanders’ turn to ruin their rival’s Senior Night.
In a typical nailbiter in the annual Floyd County rivalry, Floyd Central running back Gaige Klingsmith scored a key touchdown and a two-point conversion and New Albany place-kicker Vincent Falcone missed a 43-yard field goal with 6.7 seconds to give the Highlanders a 35-34 victory.
It was the fourth time in five meetings that the final margin was one point. Floyd Central evened the all-time series with the Bulldogs, 22-22.
“What’s good about it is we don’t have to play them again in the tournament,” Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing joked. “Our kids worked their butts off. The past two weeks have been fall break for us and we brought our kids in early and did a lot of work. The past two weeks paid off and I’m proud of them.”
New Albany (6-3, 5-2 Hoosier Hills Conference) took its first lead of the game at 31-27 with 11:30 left in the fourth quarter. On third-and-3, Bulldogs’ quarterback Zach Donan kept the ball on a read-option play and ran up the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown run.
After the New Albany defense forced the Highlanders (7-2, 6-1) to turn the ball over on downs with 8:15 remaining, senior place-kicker Vincent Falcone nailed a 36-yard field goal to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 34-27 at the 6:31 mark.
Floyd Central got the momentum turn its way thanks to one huge play.
On third-and-10 at the Highlander 41-yard line, Floyd Central quarterback Colton Kimm completed a 34-yard pass to junior Adam Wallace on a fleaflicker to give the Highlanders a first down at the New Albany 25. It was the third time Floyd Central successfully executed a fleaflicker in the contest.
Six plays later, Klingsmith ran into the left side of the end zone on third down for a 4-yard touchdown run to pull the Highlanders to within one point at 34-33 with 1:46 left.
Instead of kicking the extra point to possibly force overtime, Glesing, who has been known to go for a two-point conversion late in games throughout his career, lived up to his reputation and decided to go for two.
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Glesing explained.
This time, the two-point play worked to perfection. Klingsmith took the handoff and ran into the right side of the end zone to put the Highlanders up 35-34.
Starting at their own 37, the Bulldogs drove the ball to the Floyd Central 26 as New Albany coach Charlie Fields sent out Falcone for a possible game-winning 43-yard field goal.
Falcone, who made a pair of 44-yard field goals in a 33-26 win over Jeffersonville two weeks ago, kicked the wide left from the right hashmark.
“We had to burn a timeout early. If we would have had that, we could’ve put the ball in the middle of the field a little bit more,” Fields said. “They were in the same exact spot as last year, and we beat them on the last play of the game. Their kids wanted to come out and beat us.”
The Highlanders dominated the first quarter and a half of the contest, pulling out to a 21-3 lead.
On third-and-inches, senior running back Nick Uhl made a 20-yard touchdown run to put Floyd Central up 7-0.
“We told the kids that we were going to get their best shot early on,” Fields said.
After Falcone cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 7-3 with a 30-yard field goal, the Highlanders answered with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Klingsmith capped off the series with a 10-yard TD run to extend the Floyd Central lead to 14-3 with 3:22 left in the opening stanza. Highlander senior tight end set up Klingsmith’s score with a 27-yard reception from Kimm.
Following a Bulldog three-and-out early in the second period, Floyd Central put together a nine-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard TD run by junior back Garry Posey with 7:16 remaining in the first half.
Two big plays by New Albany got it back into the game.
On first-and-10 in Floyd Central territory, senior Jeffontae McClain made a 31-yard TD run to cut the Highlanders’ lead to 21-10.
On the following Bulldog possession with the ball at the New Albany 36-yard line, New Albany senior Tuwan Payton ran 64 yards for a touchdown to pull the Bulldogs within 21-16. Falcone missed the extra-point kick.
Posey caught a 10-yard TD pass from back-up quarterback Brandon Stout to give Floyd Central a 27-16 lead with 7:30 remaining in the third. The Highlanders failed to convert a two-point conversion.
With 2:46 left in the quarter, Donan made a 1-yard TD run on a quarterback sneak and then teammate Ravon Wright made a two-point conversion run after recovering a fumble.
New Albany will travel to Class 6A No. 3 Center Grove in the Class 6A Sectional 8 semifinal next Friday. Floyd Central will host Jennings County in the Class 5A Sectional 14 semifinal on Friday, Nov. 1.
FLOYD CENTRAL 35, NEW ALBANY 34
Floyd Central 14 7 6 8—35
New Albany 3 13 8 10—34
FC — Nick Uhl 20 run (Ryan Lenz kick), 9:21.
NA — Vincent Falcone 30 FG, 7:19.
FC — Gaige Klingsmith 10 run (Lenz kick), 3:22.
FC — Garry Posey 6 run (Lenz kick), 7:16.
NA — Jeffontae McClain 31 run (Falcone kick), 5:49.
NA — Tuwan Payton 64 run (kick failed), 1:44.
FC — Posey 10 pass from Brandon Stout (run failed), 7:30.
NA — Zach Donan 1 run (Ravon Wright run), 2:46.
NA — Donan 31 run (Falcone kick), 11:30.
NA — Falcone 36 FG, 6:31.
FC — Klingsmith 4 run (Klingsmith run), 1:07.