PREP FOOTBALL: Columbia slams down Buchholz to remain unbeaten
GAINESVILLE – It took some time to get the wheels rolling, but once Columbia's locomotive offense got revved up – Buchholz had no answer on slowing it down.
Quarterback Jordan Smith bounced back from a slow start, finishing with 325 total yards and four touchdowns. But it was the defense that carried the momentum for most of Friday night. The Tigers recorded two interceptions and held the Bobcats to 282 total yards as Columbia suffocated Buchholz in a 39-0 victory at Citizens Field.
"You won't get any griping from me when there's a goose egg on the scoreboard," Columbia head coach Brian Allen said after the game. "There far and few between in being able to get them so that, outside of the win, makes this a joyful evening."
Columbia (3-0) set the tone defensively in the opening minutes against Buchholz (1-2). The Tigers never wavered either – forcing turnovers and using strong red-zone stands to continue their dominance in the series. The Bobcats had chances to score, but the Tigers were always there, slamming the door on every opportunity.
"That's what we want every week," defensive tackle Willie Jernigan said of the team's first shutout of the year. "We got to work hard in practice for it. We know we can do it, got to put our mind to it. We want zero on the scoreboard every week."
Columbia's defense held up long enough for the offense to find a groove on its first scoring drive late in the opening quarter. Bobby Fulton's 5-yard touchdown catch, his first of two scores on the night, got the Tigers on the scoreboard. The struggles weren't over, though, Smith was intercepted on the next drive by Florida commit Trent Whittemore.
Columbia shook off its lone turnover of the night and returned to the end zone two more times before halftime thanks to Kylen Callum. The junior running back scored both his touchdowns in the final six minutes of the half giving his team a 18-0 lead.
"We can't have anymore slow starts like this," Smith said of the offensive errors. "Next week we got Lee, then Madison, then Trinity Christian. We got to roll."
Columbia's defense anchored the team in the second half as it constantly disrupted Buchholz's veteran offense. Whittemore was held to just 51 total yards after halftime which helped keep the Bobcats out of the end zone on Friday.
Columbia held a comfortable 25-0 lead entering the fourth quarter after Fulton's 27-yard touchdown catch with 46 seconds left in the third. Buchholz quarterback Cam Orth and the Bobcats were marching on the ensuing drive, until Shyheim Brown took an interception 72 yards the opposite way to give Columbia a fifth touchdown.
"Our defensive line was outstanding and our [defensive backs] came to play," defensive end Levontae Camiel said. "Linebackers, everybody, had to step up to the plate when the offense wasn't moving. It was a team effort. We had to pick ourselves up in the second half. It's really great to have a shutout."
Columbia sealed its second straight win over Buchholz on a 42-yard touchdown run by Marquez Bell, who finished with a game-high 141 yards on just four catches.
The Tigers have made it look easy through their first three games, having already accumulated 132 combined points. Columbia's biggest test awaits this week as Robert E. Lee comes to Lake City for Friday's District 2-7A opener. With huge implications on the line, the Tigers hope to snap a three-game losing streak to the Generals and put themselves in good position to host playoff games in November.
"We're going to clock in on Monday, and it's about business," Allen said. "These are the weeks that decide whether you're in the playoffs or not. You don't want it in the hands of [playoff] points. You want to take care of business and be district champs at the end of 11 weeks. So it's a different mindset. It'll be militaristic this week with them so we're focused and locked in. We'll punch the clock Monday, from 8:30 when school starts to 7:30 when we leave, it's business because this is district week."
INJURY UPDATE: Columbia linebacker Ethan Umstead (ankle) and safety Brandon Scott (ankle) are both expected to be back for this week's district opener after missing Friday's game against Buchholz. Linebacker Marlon Pollock, who also was out Friday night, could return this week too as he recovers from an ankle injury.
GATOR TRIP: Columbia wide receivers TJ Jones (2019) and Marquez Bell (2020) traveled to the University of Florida this weekend for an unofficial visit. Jones made his second trip in two weeks after visiting the school last weekend. While both are being recruited by the Gators, Jones is the only one who currently holds an offer.