PREP FOOTBALL: Tigers fall short to Conquerors
The heavyweight matchup between two state contenders seemed destined for overtime when Callum scored a clutch touchdown with less than two minutes left.
Trailing by one, inches away from the end zone, the Tigers kept the extra-point unit off the field, instead opting for the two-point conversion.
The gamble didn’t pay off as quarterback Jordan Smith’s keeper was stuffed at the goal-line.
Trinity Christian’s biggest defensive stop of the game allowed the Conquerors to hold on for a 31-30 win over the Tigers Saturday night.
“When you get an encroachment [penalty] and then get another, with half the distance to the goal-line, it can be but three inches we got to get in,” Columbia coach Brian Allen said. “So at the end of the day, I like my squad. I like what we do in the off-season, I like who we are as a program. If I have three inches to get in, Columbia is supposed to be in the end zone, so I’m going to make that call every night of the week.”
Despite committing four turnovers, three of which in the second half, the Tigers preserved and clawed back late. The Tigers (5-1) held the Conquerors (6-0) to a field goal with three minutes to go, setting up Columbia’s methodical final drive. The bout went back and forth all night, each team trading blows, but in the end, it was the Tigers who couldn’t land the last punch.
“I don’t think we took as many shots [downfield],” Allen said of the second-half woes. “But I know we had some opportunities. The ball sailed on us on a little bit, but we had turnovers. You can’t come out in the second half and have the turnovers we did. It’s been something we’ve been very good with this year and was uncharacteristic, and made the difference in the ballgame.”
Smith was constantly pressured throughout, resulting in an up and down outing. The junior star finished with 201 passing yards and two touchdowns but his three turnovers proved critical in his team’s first defeat of the season. Callum kept the Tigers alive with an impressive 158-yard performance on Saturday night. The Columbia scatback was overshadowed though by Trinity running back Marcus Crowley. The Miami commit tallied a game-high 256 rushing yards. He set the tone early for the Conquerors, helping them avenge last year’s loss to Columbia in Lake City.
The Tigers overcame a slow start highlighted by a botched snap that resulted in a turnover. Trinity Christian turned the opening drive blunder into points as Crowley scored on a 5-yard touchdown. After Garrett Fennell's 36-yard field goal early in the second, Smith scored a 9-yard run on the ensuing drive to take a slim lead.
Callum anchored the Tigers on their final drive of the first half. The 74-yard scoring drive was capped off by Bobby Fulton's 6-yard touchdown catch, which gave the Tigers a comfortable 10-point lead at halftime. Trinity Christian snatched momentum from Columbia early in the second half as Crowley exploded for a 65-yard touchdown. The Tigers saw their former lead vanish when the Conquerors returned to the end zone on a 14-yard pass to Isaiah Washington while Columbia committed turnovers on three consecutive drives. Columbia, though, answered back with a blocked field goal midway through the third. Callum's first of two touchdowns on the night came from four yards out on the ensuing drive. But the Tigers' final lead didn't last as Crowley finished of his career-night with a 50-yard touchdown to regain the lead early in the fourth.
Trinity Christian kicker Clayton Roerig nailed a 35-yarder late, extending Trinity's lead to seven points. Columbia managed to get downfield in a hurry, behind the strong legs of Callum, leading to his improbable 13-yard touchdown run with 1:28 remaining. Columbia enters the bye week after the nail-biter loss to Trinity Christian. The Tigers look to rest and bounce back before beginning the rest of their district play schedule in two weeks.
“That’s why in all employment areas you get vacation,” Allen added. “We’re not playing a 10-game season this year, the expectation is 15 games.”