By KEVIN HARRIS
For nearly a quarter and a half, it appeared New Albany was going to give Class 4A No. 1 Columbus East a run for its money on Friday night at Stafford Field.
But after a long touchdown run by Olympian stud running back Markell Jones, East showed why it is the nine-time Hoosier Hills Conference champion.
The Olympians increased its conference winning streak to 44 games with a 48-20 win over the Bulldogs as Jones rushed for 231 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns.
“That Jones’ kid is a freak of nature,” New Albany coach Charlie Fields said. “He is such a load. He’s a Columbus nightmare. He just kept coming and coming. We just had a hard time tackling Jones. He’s just a stud.”
After forcing a New Albany three-and-out, the Olympians went on an eight-play, 53-yard drive that was capped off by a 6-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Alex Cowan.
Columbus East senior Maurice Dantzler then picked off a pass by New Albany signal-caller Zach Donan to give the Olympians the ball at the New Albany 25-yard line.
Four plays later, East (5-0, 3-0 HHC) used only four plays to go up 14-0. On third-and-goal, Olympian wide receiver J.T. Voelker caught a 7-yard TD pass from Cowan with 6:25 left in the first quarter.
Instead of putting their tail between their legs, the Bulldogs fought back. On the fourth play of their next possession, senior running back Tuwan Payton raced 70 yards for a touchdown at the 4:28 mark of the opening quarter to pull the Bulldogs within seven points at 14-7.
With 37.3 seconds remaining in the stanza, Donan hit tight end Jared Jones on a play-action pass to tie the score at 14.
A sequence of plays in the middle portion of the second quarter gave East the momentum back.
New Albany punt returner Keaton Stout touched a punt that was rolling in East territory that pushed the ball back to the New Albany 38.
The Bulldogs were then whistled for a delay of game penalty, suffered a 3-yard loss by on a Payton run and committed a false-start infraction that put the ball at their own 25.
Following a Bulldog punt, Jones took the handoff and rushed 64 yards to the end zone with 4:40 left to give East a 21-14 advantage with 4:40 left in the first half.
On the next Olympian series right before halftime, senior running back Christian Wichman made a 24-yard TD scamper with 41.8 seconds remaining in the half to put New Albany up 28-14.
“Halftime came at a good time,” Fields said. “When we tied it up 14-14, East said we have a ballgame. They said we’ve got someone who is going to push us and whose going to challenge us.”
The Bulldogs seemed to have calmed down at the start of the second half. On second-and-2 at the East 41, New Albany senior Cameron Mason recovered a Cowan fumble 33 seconds into the third quarter.
Six plays later, Payton had his second touchdown of the night on a 15-yard run at the 9:29 mark of the third. But there was a low snap on the New Albany extra-point attempt and place-kicker Vincent Falcone attempted to pass the ball to a receiver in the end zone, but misfired. The Olympians led 28-20 at that point.
East quickly responded.
The Olympians went on a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by Jones to extend their lead to 34-20. On the prior play, Cowan hit Voelker with a 31-yard pass to put the ball inside the New Albany 5. East kicker Paul Baker missed the extra-point kick wide right to keep the Olympian lead at 14 points.
“Most of third quarter, we matched [East’s intensity] again and then we got tired,” Fields said. “We pushed them harder than they’ve been pushed in their conference for a daggone long time. We made mistakes, but they’re a pretty good team.”
Wichman had two more touchdown runs to seal the victory for the Olympians. He had a 33-yard TD run with 1:53 left in the third quarter and an 8-yard TD scamper with 7:46 remaining in the regulation.
Payton rushed for 167 yards on 25 carries. New Albany (3-2, 2-1) will host Madison next Friday. The Cubs are 2-3 overall and 0-3 in the HHC after a surprising 13-9 loss to Jennings County on Friday.
COLUMBUS EAST 48, NEW ALBANY 20
New Albany 14 0 6 0—20
Columbus East 14 14 13 7—48
CE — Alex Cowan 4 run (Paul Baker kick), 9:11.
CE — JT Voelker 7 pass from Cowan (Baker kick), 6:25.
NA — Tuwan Payton 70 run (Vincent Falcone kick), 4:28.
NA — Jared Jones 33 pass from Zach Donan (Falcone kick), :37.3.
CE — Markell Jones 64 run (Baker kick), 4:40.
CE — Christian Wichman 24 run (Baker kick), :41.8.
NA — Payton 15 run (pass failed), 9:29.
CE — Jones 1 run (kick failed), 6:17.
CE — Wichman 33 run (Baker kick), 1:53.
CE — Wichman 8 run (Baker kick), 7:46.