PREP FOOTBALL: Tigers hang on to defeat Generals
Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:25am
Columbia earns first district win of the season
Ending losing streaks is never easy.
Friday was no different.
Columbia lost its starting quarterback, had two punts blocked and surrendered 497 yards to Robert E. Lee.
But it didn’t matter. The Tigers weren’t losing to the Generals again in 2018.
Class 7A No. 2 Columbia ended a three-game skid to Robert E. Lee, holding on for 42-37 win at home in the teams’ District 2-7A opener. Backup quarterback Ty Wehinger threw two touchdowns to four-star prospect TJ Jones in the second half after starter Jordan Smith suffered a concussion shortly before halftime.
Smith was injured after taking a vicious hit from Lee defender Deshaun Davis as he scrambled away from pressure in the closing seconds of the half.
“It took 48 minutes and four quarters to get out of this place,” Columbia head coach Brian Allen said.
Smith completed 8/13 passes for 145 yards in the first half with three total touchdowns, hitting receiver Marquez Bell for a diving 36-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive and also running for two more on runs of 11 and 29 yards. But Wehinger stepped up in Smith’s absence, finishing the night 5/8 for 118 yards with touchdown throws to Jones of 26 and 61 yards to help Columbia (4-0, 1-0) keep Lee (3-1, 0-1) at bay.
“We don’t train one kid here at Columbia. We make sure we have the second one ready as well,” Allen said. “Wehinger is one of the smartest kids in our program and he understands this offense up, down, left, right. I thought he came in in his role and did an outstanding job in the second half.”
Lee quarterback Cameron Sapp was menace for Columbia, throwing for 407 yards and four touchdowns while completing 26/48 passes. Tahveon Nicholson caught eight of those completions for 146 yards and a score in addition to running for another while Jurial Caldwell caught six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Sapp and company answered both of Columbia’s first two scoring drives and appeared poised to do so a third time until safety Ahmad Williams made arguably the biggest play of the game. As Lee running back Kevonte Doles pushed for yardage towards Columbia’s 20-yard line, linebackers Ethan Umstead and Jaylen Brown wrapped him up while Williams came darting in, stripping the ball right out of his hands and taking it back 78 yards the other way for a touchdown to put the Tigers up 28-14 with 1:45 to go in the first half.
“He was holding the ball really loose so I reached my hand in and stripped it,” Williams said. “It popped up a little bit but I caught it. I didn’t know if (the referees) blew it dead or not but I looked and took off running.”
“There was a lot of green grass to run and score seven.”
It was a huge game changer that completely swung momentum right before halftime. Columbia’s defense later set up another score in the third quarter when Browns sacked Sapp and forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Terrick Ponds.
The next play was a 26-yard touchdown pass from Wehinger to Jones to put the Tigers up 35-14. Jones finished with five catches for 143 yards.
“I was sorry for Jordan to go down. I just did my best to be to one to lead the team and I tried to respond the best I could,” said Wehinger, who didn’t take a single first-team rep in practice during the week.
“I was a little nervous at first. After a couple of plays I kind of got a feel for it.”
Lee answered with a 60-yard scoring drive with Sapp connecting with Terry Mckinney for a 9-yard touchdown. But Wehinger and Jones answered again on the game’s next drive — with Jones juking two defenders and beating another to the end zone — before the Generals marched the comeback trail down 42-20.
Although the Generals turned it over on downs on their next possession, they blocked two consecutive Columbia punts. The first led to Sapp’s 38-yard touchdown pass to Nicholson while Columbia’s defense stopped Sapp a yard short on fourth-and-10 the second time.
But Lee still wouldn’t go away.
Wehinger was sacked back at the 1-yard line and Columbia punter Garrett Fennell was forced to take an intentional safety to avoid another blocked punt. The Generals took the ball back and Sapp threw a 32-yard score to Doles on a 4th-and-6.
Lee then tried an onside kick but Columbia recovered to run out the clock.
“It was a situation there where we had two punts blocked and we didn’t want to give up the field position and an opportunity for them to potentially get a touchdown,” Allen said. “We wanted to eat some time up and make them drive the field further than where we were. It ended up working out but it definitely got a little scary there at the end.”