Cayden Betts scored five touchdowns, including an 88-yard kickoff return after New Albany had taken an early lead, and Corinth withstood the rushing tandem of C.J. Hill and A.I. Nugent- who combined for 245 yards and four touchdowns- to maintain control of their own destiny in Division 1-4A with a 58-35 win over the Bulldogs at Warrior Stadium II on a frigidly cool Friday night.
The victory moves the Tribe to 5-2 overall, and more importantly 2-0 in division play, while New Albany falls to 3-3 with a 2-1 division record.
“Our kids came out focused and played with intensity from the get-go,” said CHS head coach Todd Lowery. “We’re beginning to figure out who we are, our identity as a team.”
For the third straight game Corinth trailed early as the ‘Dogs took advantage of a bad snap on a punt attempt with a one-yard plunge by Hill at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter.
“We still have some little things we need to clean up and we had a couple of early mistakes (turnovers),” said Lowery.
New Albany’s lead was brief as Betts took the ensuing kickoff to the house. Eli Burciaga connected on the first of eight PAT kicks (he was a perfect 8-8) and the game was knotted at 7-all.
The Warriors held the Bulldogs to a three-and-out, forcing a punt, and took over at New Albany’s 25-yard line following a 27-yard Betts punt return. From there, Brawner Cregeen connected with Naz Jones for a two-yard pickup followed by an eight-yard run by Jones to give the Tribe a first down at the 15. Christian Barber finished the three-play drive with a 15-yard scamper on the first play of the second quarter to make it 14-7 Corinth.
On the ensuing drive the Bulldogs suffered their second turnover on a fumble by Hill. Chris Rodgers scooped up the loose ball and returned it 58 yards to the ‘Dogs three. Betts scored two plays later on a two-yard plunge to stretch the CHS advantage to 21-7.
New Albany stuck completely to their powerful ground attack on the next drive, going 62 yards in 10 plays, capped by a three-yard scoring run by Hill with 3:29 remaining until halftime to cut the Warriors lead to 21-14.
Corinth would score on the final play of the first half on a two-yard run by Betts, his third TD of the half, creating a 28-14 halftime lead.
The Warriors got the ball first in the third quarter and marched methodically, 56 yards in six plays, to make it 35-14 when Cregeen scored from a yard out after Naz Jones set CHS up with first and goal on a 15-yard run.
But New Albany would not go away quietly, scoring three minutes later on a one-yard run by Nugent with 5:18 remaining in the third.
Corinth turned the ball over on downs on the following drive and the Bulldogs scored again on a 45-yard run by Nugent to make it 35-28 as the third period ended.
Corinth punted on their next drive but New Albany turned the ball right back over to the Warriors on a lost fumble, which CHS linebacker Brandon Phamm recovered at the ‘Dogs 39-yard line.
Following a 15-yard pass completion from Cregeen to tight end Charles Mauney, Betts scored again, this time from 24 yards out for a 42-28 Corinth lead.
New Albany struck back immediately on a 66-yard touchdown pass to slice the CHS lead back to seven at 42-35.
The ‘Dogs would not score again.
The Warriors made it 49-35 less than two minutes later when Cregeen, being pressured from both defensive ends, threw back to his left and hit Barber in the left flat on a screen pass and Barber did the rest, finding a hole and darting 62 yards for a touchdown to stretch Corinth’s lead to 49-35 with 6:01 remaining.
New Albany found themselves facing fourth-and-21 from their own 10 yard line when punter Caleb McDonald bobbled the snap and was tackled in the back of the end zone for a safety for a 51-35 Corinth lead.
Betts scored his final touchdown on the ensuing drive, with 1:55 left, on an 18-yard run.
For the game, Corinth out-gained New Albany 404-394 while allowing both Hill and Nugent to eclipse the 100-yard mark. Cregeen had his best game of the season with a 9-11, 167-yard performance and a touchdown thru the air to match his short touchdown run.
Betts paced the Warriors with 118 yards on 17 carries while Barber added 88 and a touchdown on the ground to go with his 62 yard TD reception.
Corinth will travel to Ripley next Friday while New Albany will host Tishomingo County.