Highlanders bury Bulldogs, 56-19
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The Floyd Central High School football team had plenty of incentive as it came into its game against host and county rival New Albany Friday night. First, the Highlanders were coming off a 42-14 loss to Cincinnati Elder from the week before. The other incentive came when the coaches’ poll came out with the Bulldogs one step above the Highlanders in ninth while Floyd Central was ranked 10th. That didn’t sit well with the players.
“We came out tonight with everything going on and off of a loss last week, and our kids took that personally,” said Floyd Central coach James Bragg. “They took that personally in the fact that we were 2-1 and it seemed like we weren’t respected really. Our kids felt like they played real well last week, and we wanted to come out and show what Floyd Central football was really about.”
Floyd Central wanted to leave no doubt in the minds of the critics, and that’s exactly what the Highlanders did, giving the Bulldogs a 56-19 shellacking.
“With the anchor (trophy) up for grabs tonight, it’s always exciting,” Bragg said. “Tonight, our boys had a little extra motivation.”
The Floyd Central defense wanted to make a statement right off the bat and forced the Bulldogs to go three and out. The Highlanders then blocked Towner Perry’s punt attempt. Andrew Spurgeon recovered the ball and ran into the end zone for six. Matt Grangier added the extra point, and Floyd Central led 7-0 just under two minutes into the game.
The Bulldogs struck back on their next possession. On third down, Derrell Simmons threw a strike to Jaraylan Johnson for 58 yards to score. Perry booted the ball through the uprights, and New Albany had the game tied at 7.
At that point, the Highlanders went on a rage, outscoring the Bulldogs 35-6. Wenkers Wright ran in back-to-back touchdowns from 6 and 3 yards, respectively. Later, Zac Hutslar caught a 34-yard pass from Tristan Polk, and Floyd Central’s lead was 28-7. New Albany got one of those back when Myles Johnson scored from two yards out, but Perry missed the extra point, bouncing it off the lower part of the goal post. Wright then scored his third TD of the night on a 12-yard run, Moments later, Polk hit Jake Hausz for 14 yards and six more, giving the Highlanders a 42-13 lead at halftime.
New Albany tried to take away the Polk-Kaleb Quinochet passing game, which had so much success in their first three games, but Floyd Central showed it had other players who could catch the ball.
“That is what we told them all week,” Bragg said. “With respect to Quinochet, they’re going to shut you all down. Our other receivers have to step it up, and (Eli) Branham stepped it up tonight. Zach Hutslar stepped it up tonight and got some big catches for us when we needed them. Teams are going to take them away, but with Kaleb his attitude was perfect. He’s on the sidelines telling guys about routes and ‘Hey, I’m going to be here on this route. It’s OK. Just catch the ball and get upfield’.”
The Floyd Central defense held the Bulldogs to just six points in the second half with Kyondre Winford scoring on a one-yard run. The Highlanders finished the game with two touchdowns, both of those coming from Spurgeon on 7- and 2-yard runs for the 56-19 final.
“Defensively, I can’t say how much I appreciate them tonight,” Bragg said. “We came out at halftime and made some adjustments, and our kids didn’t quit. They kept plowing away. They got some yards and they got an early touchdown in the second half there, and we turned it around offensively from our defense and had a great win down here.”
Bragg added a lot of praise to his bench in the second half while Wright was out with an injury in the second half.
“One of the things I love about this team is every day is a competition,” said the Floyd Central coach. “Even our backups are getting better. They’re going against (Blake) Zehnder. They’re going against (Hunter) Hyatt. They’re going against Tristan Polk. They’re going against our senior leadership every day. Anytime you can do that and you’ve got confidence in practice, it rolls over to the game.
“Spurgeon comes off the bench in the second half and gets two scores, big scores. Colin Cummins carried the ball very well today. Then defensively, (Spencer) Didat comes off the bench and he was a little spark plug for us. He’s moves back and forth from lineback and D-lineman, and it was just amazing to see our kids buy into the team and understand their roles and come out with this big victory.”
The Highlanders have little time to celebrate with a gauntlet of five straight conference games down the road, the first coming Friday against Jeffersonville, which will be played at Floyd Central.
“We can’t overlook those guys,” Bragg said of the Red Devils. “They play extremely hard. They’ve gotten a lot better. We’ve seen them on film. Then, of course, we’ve got the showdowns with (Columbus) East and Bedford. So, our conference is up for grabs, and we’re just excited to be in the hunt right now.”
Floyd Central 14 28 7 7 – 56
New Albany 7 6 6 0 – 19
Floyd Central-Andrew Spurgeon, 15 yd blkd kick rec (Matt Grangier kick); New Albany-Jaraylan Johnson, 58 yd pass from Derrell Simmons (Towner Perry kick); Floyd Central-Wenkers Wright, 6 yd run (Grangier kick); Floyd Central-Wright, 3 yd run (Grangier kick); Floyd Central-Zac Hutslar, 34 yd pass from Tristan Polk (Grangier kick); New Albany-Myles Johnson, 2 yd run (kick fails); Floyd Central-Wright, 12 yd run (Grangier kick); Floyd Central-Jake Hausz, 14 yd pass from Tristan Polk (Grangier kick); New Albany-Kyondre Winford, 1 yd run (kick fails); Floyd Central-Spurgeon, 7 yd run (Grangier kick); Floyd Central-Spurgeon, 2 yd run (Grangier kick).