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Floyd Central senior Brock Slavens (14) has one of several big plays Friday night with this 80-yard touchdown run in the Highlanders’ 48-47 sectional win over country rival New Albany. The Highlanders host Castle this Friday night for the sectional championship. Photo by Wade Bell

Highlanders cage Bulldogs in squeaker

November 03, 2010
Just as they did two weeks ago, the Floyd Central Highlanders and visiting New Albany Bulldogs busted heads in the semi-final of the Class 5A No. 8 sectional. Just as it was two weeks ago, the game came down to the final minutes and was decided by a single point as the Highlanders squeaked out a 48-47 win to advance to the sectional championship game against Castle.

"We wanted the game 10-0 or something, but it was one of those things where it was clock management," Floyd Central coach Brian Glesing said of the game, which had nine lead changes. "You score and, then, is there enough time for them to score? It was back and forth and just a big headache."

The Bulldogs drew first blood with Jalen Forrest scoring on a 3-yard run. The Highlanders quickly countered as Kyle Bramble carried the ball seven times, taking the final one into the end zone from 7 yards to score. Brock Slavens ran the two-point conversion, and Floyd Central took a one-point edge.

The next lead change came from Christopher Whitehead on a 3-yard run, but the Bulldogs failed on its conversion attempt to leave themselves with just a 13-8 lead at the end of one quarter.

New Albany scored again in the second quarter, but missed on another conversion attempt to leave the lead at 19-8.

Floyd Central quickly responded on its next possession with Bramble running in from 3 yards. Garrett Shanks threw to Bramble for the two-point conversion, and the New Albany lead was just 19-16 at halftime.

"Patrick Uhl made a big play," Glesing said. "I think Garrett, the quarterback, scrambled it, almost went down there and then made a big play. Then, we were going to have to punch it in there."

Floyd Central took the lead midway through the third quarter when Dylan Jenny barreled into the end zone from 3 yards. Shanks then threw to Jordan Thompson for the next conversion and a 24-19 Floyd Central lead. New Albany quickly made a big play on its next possession, as Marcus Threat connected with Francis Middleton on a 74-yard pass play to the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Whitehead ran into the end zone to score. Middleton got the two-point conversion, and the Bulldogs were back on top, 27-24, at the end of three quarters.

"When Floyd Central and New Albany get together, it's going to be a rivalry that's good," Glesing said. "It could have gone either way."

Both teams scored three times in the fourth quarter, with the night's biggest run — 80 yards by Slavens — resulting in a touchdown. The most important plays came later, however, when it came down to the nitty-gritty.

With 3:15 left, Floyd Central scored when the Bulldogs blocked a Jason VanBuren field-goal attempt. As the ball came down, it was touched by a New Albany player and became a live ball. Floyd Central's Randall Jackson quickly fell on it in the end zone for a Highlander touchdown. Shanks then threw to Thompson again for the two-point conversion, and Floyd Central was on top, 48-41.

"That's why we cover our kicks," Glesing said. "When you kick a field goal, you've got to cover, because it's like a punt. We practice if you kick a field goal, it's like a punt, so we've got to cover it."

Then came the biggest play of the game. With 1:28 left, Forrest scored from 8 yards to close the New Albany deficit to 48-47. Forrest then got the call again for the two-point conversion and possibly the win. At first, it appeared he had pushed the ball across the line, but the officials said the junior was down before the ball broke the plane. The conversion was disallowed, leaving Floyd Central with a one-point edge.

From there, the Highlanders worked the clock and went on for the 48-47 win.

"They put three in there as runners. … We just had to make a play, and we made a play," Glesing said. "We hadn't really made any all night, and neither had they. We made a play when we needed to."

The Highlanders had 436 yards of total offense, including 385 rushing yards and 51 passing yards. Bramble carried the ball 41 times for 186 yards, and Uhl carried twice for 16 yards. Shanks connected on 3-of-10 passes, with Uhl catching one for 27 yards. On defense, Brett Zoll and Josh Hack had six tackles each, and T.J. Werner, Slavens and Shanks had five tackles each. Werner also had eight assists for the defense.

New Albany had 578 yards of offense, with 444 coming on 49 carries and 134 on 8-of-12 passing. Whitehead tallied 310 of those yards. Penalties were a problem for the Bulldogs, as they committed 10 for 87 yards.

"They are so much faster than us," Glesing said. "They're quick. They spread you out, and they're able to throw it and do some things. It puts all of our guys on assignment football and islands, and it makes it difficult for us. We struggle simulating in practice. That's one of the things, if we saw it in practice, we might be a little better at it, but we can't simulate it. You survive and move on."

"We just made a lot of plays," Glesing said. "The interception (in the second quarter), I thought, was big. They were getting ready to go up two scores, and we picked one of them off. Brock Slavens runs an 80-yard sweep around the end. The two-point conversion that finally stopped them, that's 3 yards. If we stop them from less than three yards, then we win. We got the onside kick afterwards."

The Highlanders get little time to celebrate the rivalry win as they now have to prepare for Friday night's championship game against Castle. The game, at Floyd Central, will begin at 7.

"It's the tournament, and we have to get back to the drawing board and still have to get better defensively," Glesing said. "We get to play for a championship. Our goal was to play in November, and next week is November, so we're excited about that."

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