NEW ALBANY — New Albany ended the regular season on a high note Friday evening at Buerk Field.
The Bulldogs rumbled for 497 rushing yards, including 244 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries via sophomore Myles Johnson, en route to a 42-20 win over Hoosier Hills Conference foe Jennings County.
Sophomores Kyondre Winford and DeJon Winburn added 118 and 73 yards, respectively, in the romp. Winburn found the end zone twice, once through the air from Winford, and finished with 107 total yards.
The hosts, who posted their highest point total of the season in the win, averaged 9 yards per play.
It’s the third straight victory for the Bulldogs (4-5, 3-3 Hoosier Hills) after suffering five consecutive losses. The win makes four straight and seven in the last eight meetings versus the Panthers (3-6, 1-5 HHC).
“I was happy for our seniors — it was a big win on Senior Night,” New Albany coach Steve Cooley said. “I was proud of the effort. Our defense played lights out. … They’re a good football team. We controlled things up front. We’re getting better. We’ve been healthy the past few weeks.”
The Bulldogs will now look to secure the program’s first postseason win since 2010 when they meet rival Jeffersonville on Nov. 1, at the Red Devils’ Blair Field, in the Class 5A Sectional 16 semifinals. The winner will vie for a sectional crown versus Floyd Central or Bedford North Lawrence on Nov. 8.
The new sectional realignment, which moved perennial power Columbus East to Sectional 8 in wake of its shift to Class 6A, will result in the first sectional title since at least 2011 — BNL’s last crown — for one of the four programs. Floyd Central last won in 2009, Jeffersonville in 2007 and New Albany in 2002.
“For us, we take it one at a time,” Cooley, who previously coached at Jeffersonville, said. “We’ll enjoy this tonight. Tomorrow morning, we’ll start looking at Jeff. We’ve got every snap on them already broke down.”
New Albany opened scoring with its special teams. With Jennings County punting from its own 28-yard line, after a Bulldogs drive stalled deep in Panthers territory, the Dogs blocked the punt, which led to a recovery and score for Brendon Sandven.
On the hosts’ ensuing possession, Johnson belted out a 64-yard touchdown run to make a two-score lead before yet another standout special teams play. Another blocked punt paved the way for Winburn's 50-yard touchdown run — featuring a tip-toe act down the right sideline — on the first play of the following possession.
New Albany, which recorded a fumble recovery on the Panthers’ final first-half drive inside the Bulldogs’ red zone, took a 21-7 lead into halftime behind the key blocked punts and 117 yards from Johnson and 53 from Winburn, respectively. The hosts averaged 10.2 yards per play in the first two periods.
Johnson continued his strong start in the second half, as 1- and-17-yard touchdown runs — sandwiched in between a Jennings County trick play resulting in a score — extended the lead to 35-14 with 3:53 left in the third.
The Bulldogs’ fourth completion through the air later resulted in Winburn’s second TD — a 20-yard reception early in the fourth quarter. A late Jennings County touchdown made the final.
The Bulldogs now look to avenge their regular-season loss to rival Jeffersonville in the postseason. New Albany dropped a 32-13 decision at Blair Field on Sept. 6.
The last first-round sectional matchup between the two schools ended in a 1-point victory for the Red Devils in 2015.
“We’re going to practice hard and keep working on fundamentals,” Cooley said. “That’s what’s got us here the last four or five weeks. We haven’t changed anything. … When we played them, we were limited, but we’re better now. And they’re better.”