• Columbia's Bobby Fulton runs upfield against IMG Academy (BRIAN COATS/Special to the Reporter).
    Columbia's Bobby Fulton runs upfield against IMG Academy (BRIAN COATS/Special to the Reporter).

COMMENTARY: No more snubbing, Tigers deserve to be ranked among state's best

Columbia should crack top-10 overall in state football polls

For years, they've been overlooked by the media – rarely considered anymore as  one of the state's best programs. But the Tigers reminded everyone last week that indeed they're contenders, not pretenders, so put some respect on their name.

I know, I know, preseason games don't count – and starters were replaced early in the second half so we'll never what would've transpired if they played a full game.

Columbia, though, did enough in 26 minutes against IMG Academy's national team to be ranked in the top-3 (Class 7A) when the state football poll comes out soon.

What happened Friday night stunned many – not just in Florida, but across the nation – but the result wasn't a shocker in the visiting locker room. For the Tigers, it was more of a 'I told you so' moment. For a while, at least since I've been in town, Columbia has proclaimed itself to be the hardest working team in America.

The Tigers have always believed, everyone else is just starting to follow along.

"Hats off to those guys," IMG Academy head coach Kevin Wright told me after the game. "They have a really good football team. If they stay healthy, I think you'll see them go a long way."

Perhaps the Ascenders didn't think the country boys from the rural north could compete with their gang of blue-chip prospects. The Tigers proved once again that outside accolades don't matter when two teams step on the field. And it didn't take long for the Tigers to sink their teeth into the IMG Academy defense Friday night.

Before I could look down to tie my shoe, Columbia's fast up-tempo offense, led by quarterback Jordan Smith, scored 21 points on three consecutive scoring drives.

"That's who we are," Columbia coach Brian Allen told me. "I wasn't [offensive coordinator] a year ago, so what anybody saw last year, that wasn't me. It's going to be fast…We practice that up-tempo. Guys are in shape because of the way we practice. We are very successful if we get it going in six to eight seconds. But it can better."

Not being satisfied is what has led the Tigers to this point, finally receiving some more attention from Power 5 colleges and outside media outlets. The Tigers won't be completely satisfied though until that state title trophy is back in Lake City. But after beating top-ranked IMG Academy, they should be considered a top-tier team.

There's no reason why they shouldn't be ranked somewhere in the state's top-10 teams overall, and shouldn't be any lower than third in Class 7A. It's not everyday that a unranked public school embarrasses one of the nation's premier programs.

I encourage all voters to give credit where credit is due. Enough is enough.

Put some respect on their name.

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