Since the Denver Broncos already authored “The Drive” of NFL playoff lore, Jeffersonville’s final possession on Friday will need another name. It’s one for history, ending a postseason classic.
How about “The Devils’ March?”
The Red Devils drove 99 yards, capped by Cam Northern’s 9-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds left, as Jeffersonville rallied to conquer rival New Albany 35-34 in the Class 6-A sectional semifinal at Buerk Field.
Jeffersonville (6-4) advanced to meet No. 1 Center Grove (a 34-7 winner over Columbus North) in the sectional final.
New Albany (4-6) controlled the entire game and thought it had salted it away with another third-down score as Rondale Moore dashed to the right corner of the end zone and appeared to clip the pylon with the ball as he dove. The sideline official ruled him down at the 1, and the Devils stuffed Darquan Richardson on fourth down with 4:55 left.
The Devils’ potent offense covered that distance in 13 plays, and Northern was splendid under the pressure, completing huge passes to Brandon Coleman (11 yards to get away from the goal line) and tight end Dawson Willis (28 and 16 yards).
The final touchdown was a case of refusing to be denied. Northern scrambled left and ran into defenders at the 10, but he powered through tacklers and kept his momentum going forward until he pushed into the end zone.
“They fight,” Jeffersonville interim coach Alfonzo Browning said as he was doused in ice water. “They don’t quit. They don’t give up.”
The Devils had the lead for exactly one minute in the first quarter until that unforgettable march.
New Albany’s offense, engineered by a freshman quarterback, was perfectly scripted during the first half. The Bulldogs monopolized the ball for 7:24 on their first possession to score first, overcoming three penalties and converting twice on fourth down en route to Darquan Richardson’s 1-yard dive.
Jeffersonville countered in less than a minute. Jordan Barnett ripped off a 24-yard run and scored from 35 on the next play.
After the Bulldogs went back in front with Dylan Clark’s 7-yard pass to Moore, the Red Devils started making mistakes and paying for them. Brandon Coleman fumbled the next kickoff, and Richardson burst home from 23 yards for a 20-7 lead.
Jeffersonville capped a wild first quarter with Barnett’s second touchdown, cutting the deficit to 20-14. But another fumble (Northern mishandled a snap) led the New Albany’s final score of the half. Two penalties on fourth down kept the New Albany drive alive, and Moore scored from the 12, leaving two defenders spellbound with dazzling cuts.
Jeffersonville started the second half with a touchdown drive, capped by another Barnett score, but New Albany extended its lead to 34-21 with 2:48 left in the third on Richardson’s 9-yard run. The Devils came back right away with Barnett’s last touchdown, and that set the stage for the thrilling conclusion.
Barnett finished with 216 yards and four touchdowns. Northern was 14-of-23 passing for 187 yards. The Devils overcame three turnovers.
“There was no frustration,” Northern said. “Our team has come from behind all year. We’re resilient. We always try to find a way to come back.”
Jeffersonville also won the regular-season game 25-12, but this one will be remembered.
“It hurts,’ New Albany coach Sean Coultis said. “It really, really hurts. It’s horrible. You don’t want to say the game came down to one play, but geez. Rondale hit the pylon and it’s a touchdown. That’s a tough call. Did it decide the game? Yes, it did.”
Richardson had a huge game for the Bulldogs, rushing for 170 yards.
Justin Sokeland can be contacted [email protected]
JEFFERSONVILLE 35, NEW ALBANY 34
NA – Darquan Richardson, 1 run (kick failed), 4:36; Jeff – Jordan Barnett, 35 run (Jordan Khan kick), 3:48; NA – Rondale Moore, 7 pass from Dylan Clark (Matheo Urrego-Gutierrez kick), 2:48; NA – Richardson, 23 run (Urrego-Gutierrez kick), 1:50; Jeff – Barnett, 2 run (Khan kick), 0:19; NA – Moore, 12 run (Urrego-Gutierrez kick), 5:12; Jeff – Barnett, 4 run (Khan kick), 7:31; NA – Richardson, 9 run (Urrego-Gutierrez kick), 2:48: Jeff – Barnett, 10 run (Khan kick), 1:19; Jeff – Northern, 9 run (Khan kick), 0:33