TAMPA — Newsome running back Jason Albritton was on track to have his best night of the season Friday when the Wolves took on Wharton in the Class 8A region quarterfinals.
The junior, who leads his team in rushing, had 68 yards and a touchdown that gave Newsome an early lead, and it wasn’t even halftime.
But as he tore through Wharton defenders in late in the second quarter, Albritton went down with a rolled ankle, Wolves coach Christian Yockey said. Running back Andrew Dempsey moved to fullback to fill his teammate’s void.
And fortunately for Newsome, Dempsey did so just fine.
Dempsey finished that very drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, widening a lead that Newsome would not relinquish in its 21-7 victory.
The Wolves finished the game with 244 yards rushing.
“It’s just kind of a combination of being able to go inside and outside and making them kind of set their defense, and we pick where we go after that,” Yockey said of his team’s rushing dominance. “Our kids take pride in the fact that they want to be more physical than the other team that we play.”
On the very first play of the game, Newsome running back J.C. Roque took off for a 33-yard run, and the Wildcats (7-2) never seemed to be able to stop the Wolves from there. Albritton finished that opening drive with a 7-yard score.
It appeared Wharton would respond quickly when, on the very next drive, quarterback Emery Floyd connected with receiver Dijon Johnson on a 56-yard pass that Johnson nearly ran into the end zone. But on the 2-yard line, Newsome cornerback Amiir Austin stripped him, and the Wolves took possession on the turnover.
The Wildcats wouldn’t get anywhere close to the end zone for the rest of the half. Dempsey, meanwhile, put Newsome (6-2) up 14-0 with his 3-yard score in the second quarter.
“I’ve (played fullback) before. I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to run downhill and get the first down,’ " Dempsey said of filling in for the injured Albritton. “I look up to him. We’ve been out here grinding it out together all season. It just hurts to see him hurt.”
After halftime, Wharton made a game of it, going for it on a risky fourth down and drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty to keep its drive going. The Wolves also were flagged for pass interference on the drive, helping set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Floyd to receiver Kadin Durgan with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Once again, Dempsey and the rest of the Newsome running game stepped up. Following Wharton’s scoring drive, the Wolves drove 85 yards for a touchdown, draining time off the clock with runs up the middle. Roque scored on a 10-yard run to put the game out of reach.
When Yockey gathered his players under the scoreboard after the victory, the first words out of his mouth were a long time coming.
“Eight years and four days,” he told them, reminding the Wolves of how long it had been since the last time they won a playoff game. At that time, Yockey was an assistant on a Newsome team that has since been trying to find its place in Class 8A.
After Friday’s result, Yockey said, the Wolves are a little bit closer.
“Eight years and four days was the last time we won a playoff game,” he said. “We’ve been talking to the kids since Monday about how it’s been so long, and we want to end the drought.
“That’s what we did.”