ECRU– North Pontotoc dropped a hard fought home region game 38-14 to New Albany last Friday night. The Bulldogs led 10-7 at halftime against a much improved Vikings team, but a blocked punt and big plays from New Albany sank the Vikings in the second half, as the Bulldogs outscored them 28-7.
“Special teams plays are momentum changers, but give them credit. They are a talented team, well-coached, and that causes any miscue to be magnified,” said North Pontotoc head coach Andy Crotwell. “We had several of them on a blocked punt, not covering screens well and not protecting the quarterback.”
Joe Mathis hit Cameron Knox for a 42-yard touchdown to give New Albany (3-2) a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. A few minutes later the Vikings (3-3) answered and tied the game with a 73-yard TD run by Tyler Hill. New Albany added a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter to lead 10-7 at halftime.
“We were in the ballgame with a strong team until the middle of the third quarter, and we will use this as an opportunity for growth,” said Coach Crotwell. “I think we have improved and we are a better team than we were a week or two ago.”
A.I. Nugent scored on a 42-yard screen pass to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 17-7 at the 8:29 mark of the third quarter. After a blocked punt deep in Viking territory, C.J. Hill scored from 5 yards out on the following play to make it 24-7.
Linebacker Gavin Dyer swung the momentum in North Pontotoc's favor when he returned a fumble 95 yards for a touchdown to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 24-14 late in the third quarter. That would be the only points the Vikings could muster in the second half, however, as the New Albany defense pitched a shutout. Mathis connected with Knox again for a 26-yard score on a screen pass with 8:44 remaining in the fourth, and Nugent added a 31-yard TD run with 1:20 to go finish off the Vikings.
“We have Tishomingo County next, and we need to play well and be sharp, because they are a well-coached and much improved team,” said coach Crotwell. “Our focus will shift to them and we will keep working hard to correct tonight’s mistakes.”
North Pontotoc (3-3, 0-2) will travel to Iuka to face the Tishomingo County Braves (2-4, 0-2) Friday night. It will be a very important Region 1-4A matchup with playoff implications, as both teams are still winless in region play.
New Albany is 3-2 and 1-0 in division. The Bulldogs will travel to Corinth on Friday to face the Warriors.