Jimmy Gammill’s 45-yard field goal with :08. seconds remaining cut short a determined Big Walnut comeback as the Eagles held on for a 34-31 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over the host Golden Eagles in front of a packed house Friday night in Sunbury.
With the victory, New Albany (6-2, 4-1 OCC) moved into a first-place tie with Big Walnut (6-2, 4-1 OCC) and Olentangy Orange (6-2, 4-1 OCC) in the race for the Capital Division championship.
Orange defeated Franklin Heights 48-6 last night in Columbus.
Joe Weaver’s Golden Eagles, after giving up two touchdowns in the final :17.4 of the first half to fall behind New Albany 24-3, came back out and outscored the visiting Eagles 28-7 in the second half to pull even at 31-31 on junior halfback Alex Clark’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left in regulation.
New Albany, ranked fourth behind second-ranked Big Walnut in the OHSAA Division II, Region 7 playoff rankings, answered with a 6-play drive to the Golden Eagle 27-yard line to set up Gammill’s game-winning field goal.
“We still have our goals in place,” Weaver said in a subdued locker room. ”We’re still in the hunt in the Capital Division and a berth in postseason play with two games to play against Mount Vernon and Franklin Heights. Despite falling behind early because of our mistakes and penalties, we came back out and put ourselves in a position to win the game … our kids never quit.”
After being held to a Corey Gibson field goal in the first half, the Golden Eagles scored four touchdowns in span of 11 minutes and 32 seconds to catch New Albany at 31-all. Senior quarterback Tyler Beam hooked up with senior wide receiver Seth Wandling on a 6-yard touchdown pass with 2:58 left in the third period to start the surge.
After senior defensive back Grant Beam returned his interception of a Zach Tomi pass to the New Albany 30, senior running back Lucas Garcia scored on a 4-yard run seven seconds into the final quarter to close the gap to 24-17.
It was New Albany’s turn to respond as junior Darron Lee broke free on an 89-yard scoring run on the second play, 52 seconds following the Golden Eagles’ kickoff to regain its 2-touchdown lead at 31-17 with 11:01 left in the contest.
Lee’s second touchdown of the game seemed to re-ignite Big Walnut. The Golden Eagles answered with an 8-play, 48-yard drive that that saw the Beam brothers connect on a 13-yard pass on fourth-and-six to the New Albany 6. Tyler Beam later scored from one yard to trim the deficit to 31-24 with 8:56 to play.
The Golden Eagle defense got the ball back, forcing the Eagles to punt on fourth-and-19 from their own 10, setting up Big Walnut’s game-tying drive that ended on Clark’s 1-yard scoring run.
“That was one of our better second halves of football this season,” Weaver said. “You could see it in the players’ eyes when they came out of the locker room … you could tell they were ready to go out and get after it.”