By Peyton Taylor
NEW ALBANY- After a 7-5 season in 2018, the New Albany Bulldogs will look to build on their first winning season since 2012. Second-year head coach Cody Stubblefield returns after leading the Bulldogs to two more wins than achieved in 2017.
On the offensive side of the ball, New Albany will have to quickly find new leadership behind center as underrated senior quarterback Loden Bolen graduated in 2018 after a standout season in which he completed sixty percent of his passes for 2,531 yards with a 29/11 touchdown to interception ratio.
2018 backup Charlie Lott will compete for the starting gig, and he will have plenty of skill players around him returning to ease the transition. Bryson Prather returns as the lead back for the Bulldogs, coming off a campaign a year ago when he averaged five yards a carry and ran for 782 yards, along with fourteen touchdowns. Their second and third leading receivers, Kalob Adair and Isaiah Cohran, return after combining for 1,198 yards and twelve touchdowns on eighty receptions.
The New Albany defense returns plenty of production as the top three leading tacklers from a year ago return in Shamarquces Smith, Jackson Formsma, and QT Sanders. Along with this, Smith and Adair return as big-time playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Adair led the team with three interceptions last year, and Smith picked off one pass last year and forced a team-high four fumbles.
The Bulldogs have a tough slate in 2019, opening the season at East Union, who claimed their division title in 2A last year. The next week brings a game at Itawamba Agricutural, who bested New Albany a year ago. Pontotoc and Booneville come next at home and on the road, respectively, against teams that finished second and first in their divisions. Finally, in mid-October, North Pontotoc and Corinth both come to New Albany to face the Bulldogs in back-to-back weeks. Overall, seven of eleven opponents made the playoffs in 2018, so this year will be a true test to how sustainable last year’s success is.