Windy, cool and wet conditions at New Albany’s Buerk Field on Friday night led to slippery hands, slick artificial turf and a wet football. Fumbles were abundant and a 6-6 halftime score was indicative of two teams that were unable to get any traction.
For one team to emerge victorious in a rivalry that has been ongoing since 1904, either Jeffersonville or New Albany would have to make plays on defense and special teams.
Jeffersonville did and the Red Devils won the 91st meeting between these programs, 25-12.
“We were fortunate enough to make plays when we needed them,” Jeffersonville coach Alfonso Browning said. “We’re paying attention to detail in special teams.”
It was one of those nights where – for much of the game – the longest running play was made by a defensive lineman. Where punters, quarterbacks and running backs all had trouble holding onto the ball – and passing was a luxury that neither team could afford.
The Red Devils used big plays on special teams to get the lead – and a tough defensive stand late in the game to maintain it.
With the score tied in the third quarter and neither team able to put together a sustained drive, the Bulldogs found themselves punting near midfield. A fumble on the punt attempt was picked up by Red Devils’ defensive lineman Michael Lively, who took it 43 yards for the touchdown.
The score was tied at 12 later in the quarter when Jeffersonville’s Isaiah Blanton showed his speed by returning a kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown.
Special teams had provided the Red Devils two touchdowns in the third quarter – the defense would take care of business in the fourth.
Down 19-12, the Bulldogs drove inside the Jeffersonville 10-yard line with under three minutes left in the game – but couldn’t punch it in. The Red Devils answered with its best play from scrimmage – an 80-yard touchdown run by Jordan Barrett to ice the win.
It was Browning’s first taste of the rivalry as interim head coach, and the win put his Red Devils over .500 in the conference and overall.
New Albany, which got fine efforts from quarterback Justin Ricketts and running backs Rondale Moore and Darquan Richardson, was just a handful of plays from avenging a 48-13 rout last season. Not much comfort, but then again, it wasn’t a comfortable night.