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NEW Albany football coach Charlie Fields knows his team, which faces Hoosier Hills Conference titan Columbus East on Friday in Columbus, is far better than when he took over the program in 2011.
There is, however, one problem.
“East is better,” Fields said. “That’s the problem.”
The Bulldogs went 1-9 in Fields’ first season and 5-5 last season. This season, New Albany is off to a 3-1 start, with the only loss 14-7 to Castle.
Week 5 foes
WHO: New Albany
WHERE: Columbus East High School
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
RECORD: 3-1 overall, 2-0 Hoosier Hills Conference
COACH: Charlie Fields
KEY PLAYERS: TB Tuwan Payton, QB Zach Donan, WR Ravon Wright, TE Jared Jones, DL Javier Santiago, DL Damian McDuffy
LAST MEETING: Columbus East won 31-7 in 2012
WHO: Terre Haute South
WHERE: Columbus North High School
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
RECORD: 2-2 overall, 1-1 Conference Indiana
COACH: Tim Herrin
KEY PLAYERS: QB Timmy Herrin, TB Logan Deady, WR Jacob Johnson, DL Junior Barry
LAST MEETING: Columbus North won 47-0 in 2007 sectional
The Bulldogs have won their past two games by a combined 103-6.
Unfortunately for them, East (4-0) is the No. 1-ranked Class 4A team in the state; and the Olympians, who beat New Albany 31-7 in 2012, might be better than last year’s 13-1 version.
Fields is not looking forward to dealing with East tailback Markell Jones.
“Jones is a nightmare,” Fields said. “He is Hershel Walker. And his offensive linemen are a bunch of clones. They are so good at what they do, it’s like the whole thing is choreographed.”
But New Albany has one of the state’s top tailbacks as well in senior Tuwan Payton, who has gained 1,077 yards in four games with 14 touchdowns.
“We’ve only played Tuwan two full games,” Fields said. “We’ve had to pull him after the first drive of the third quarter (because the scores were lopsided). “But he is a different kind of back than Jones. He has good vision and he is very quick.”
East coach Bob Gaddis said it will be a challenge to stop Payton.
“It is going to be great for our team to contend with a very talented young man,” Gaddis said. “He is a great athlete, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The New Albany quarterback is Zach Donan, a junior. “He has done a nice job growing up in the program,” Fields said. “We haven’t had to throw much, so he has been managing the game. We have Tuwan, so he kind of gets out of the way a little.”
New foe for Bull Dogs
At Columbus North on Friday night, the Bull Dogs (1-3, 1-1 Conference Indiana) host Terre Haute South (2-2, 1-1).
It’s a new era for both Columbus North and Terre Haute South, which just joined Conference Indiana.
“The next two weeks (North travels to Terre Haute North on Sept. 27) should be fun,” North coach Tim Bless said. “It’s like the tournament, where you get to play against teams you haven’t seen.”
Whether the Bull Dogs like what they see in Terre Haute South remains to be seen.
“Offensively, they make a lot of big plays,” Bless said. “They have had multiple two-, three- and four-play touchdown drives this season.
“But our pre-eminent story has been the evolution of our defense. I think we are figuring out how to play defense, and we are starting to trust our adjacent teammates. We also are improving our tackling.”
The Bull Dogs will need to be solid on defense to handle Terre Haute South quarterback Timmy Herrin, who has completed 62 of 99 passes for 917 yards and eight touchdowns. His favorite target is wide receiver Jacob Johnson, who has 19 catches for 344 yards and four touchdowns.
Herrin’s dad is Braves head coach Tim Herrin.
“We’re excited about playing in a new conference,” said Tim Herrin, who took over the program this season. “Our No. 1 goal is to be a physical team that plays until the end of games.”
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