> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Week 7 means Jeff-New Albany Week.
In Clark and Floyd counties, there’s only one bigger sporting event each year — the Jeff-New Albany boys’ basketball game.
For Jeff and New Albany football, the game means everything. A win on Friday is as big as a conference or a sectional title.
For the students at each school, it means bragging rights. For the winning city, it can claim superiority until at least basketball season.
What does it mean for me as the guy tasked with picking high school football games? It means a whole town will hate me.
But I do what I must with pride. And I promise you this, Jeffersonville and New Albany — I love you both.
On to the picks:
JEFFERSONVILLE AT NEW ALBANY
Here’s what we know:
• With both teams at 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the Hoosier Hills Conference, this is the best the two teams have been combined since maybe 2002 when the Bulldogs won the HHC and their second sectional title in school history and the Red Devils nearly beat them in a regular-season thriller.
• New Albany is good, maybe very good. Tuwan Payton can make an argument as the best running back in Indiana and his offense is averaging 32.2 points per game. The Bulldog defense has held five of its six opponents to 14 points or under, including a pair of shutouts. There’s certainly a case to be made that the Bulldogs are the better team.
• New Albany is the more consistent of the teams. The Bulldogs beat Providence by 28 points; the Red Devils lost to the Pioneers by 22. That’s some pretty big evidence.
• Jeffersonville is talented. The Red Devils have NCAA Division I players and potential Division I players all over the field. They’re fast and they’ve proven that they can be good. They scored 60 points on an Evansville Bosse team that is proving to be one of the best in Indiana. Since losing to the Devils, Bosse has won four of its last five and is averaging 45.3 points per game.
• Jeff’s three Hoosier Hills Conference wins have come against teams with a combined one conference win. Maybe the last two games more accurately portrays who the Devils are.
• New Albany’s defense proved that it had no chance of stopping the Red Devils a year ago. Jeff scored 111 combined points in two outings. Two of the Jeff players the Bulldogs couldn’t contain were Dionte Allen and Austin Hines. Both will be on the field Friday.
Here’s what I think:
• Jeffersonville is a much better team than it showed the last two weeks. Whether it was the weather or lack of enthusiasm, the Devils haven’t played well the past two weeks. Friday is supposed to be 87 degrees and sunny, and if Jeff can’t get up for this game, there’s something really wrong.
This one will be a close one. Perhaps the most competitive rivalry game since the 2002 thriller. I just have the feeling that we’re going to see the best Jeffersonville has to offer and that should be just good enough.
THE PICK: Jeffersonville 35, New Albany 33. (Please don’t hate me, New Albany!)