The Columbia Tigers broke the hearts of the Gainesville High School faithful on Thursday night with a 44-43 overtime victory at Citizens Field.
With the game tied at the end of regulation, Gainesville quarterback Caelan Christian tossed a 25-yard touchdown to Dock Luckie to draw first blood in overtime to take a 43-36 lead.
When the Tigers gained possession, Columbia gave the ball to senior running back Lonnie Underwood, who responded by rushing for his fourth touchdown to bring the score to 43-42.
Rather than tying the game with the extra point, Columbia head coach Brian Allen elected to go for the two point conversion. Underwood took the hand-off, bounced outside, then cut back in to convert.
“In a game like this, I felt it was better to lose and go home than to go into three or four overtimes,” said Allen. “I put the ball into (Lonnie Underwood’s) hands and told him to go score and he was able to get it done.”
It’s a tough loss for Hurricanes head coach Mark Latsko. The Canes allowed Underwood to run rampant, amassing 156 yards on the ground.
“Two good teams – been pretty good for the last several years… they made a play when they had to,” said Latsko. “We’ll go back to the drawing board, watch the film, and clean our mistakes.”
Gainesville (0-1) will look to regroup as they prepare to take on rival Eastside next week. Columbia (1-0) will now prepare to face another tough opponent next week when they host Tallahassee Lincoln.
** Oak Hall opened its season Thursday night with a 33-0 road loss at Florida School for the Deaf.
** The Eastside Rams will play the Buchholz Bobcats tonight at Citizens Field.
Eastside head coach Jeff Parker is entering his fourth year at the helm. He’s looking to build on a team that went 5-5 in 2013.
“We’re definitely still young. We have some guys that definitely have some talent,” Parker said, “We have to get them to play together and be on the same page.”
Look for the Rams to use two quarterbacks in their opening game. Seniors Malachi Lofland and Landon Rogers will both take turns running the offense.
Meanwhile, the Buchholz Bobcats will look to make a statement after finishing with a lackluster record of 3-7 last season. Third year head coach Mark Whittemore hopes to see a repeat of last year’s season opener against Eastside where the Bobcats beat the Rams 13-6.
“Some of the same kids that play offense play defense. So really our strong suit is our quarterback spot,” said Whittemore. “We’re returning Jackson White – he’s got one year under his belt so I think that we be a big help for us.”
Kickkoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
** The Santa Fe High Raiders will host the Newberry Panthers.
The Raiders are optimistic on building on last year’s 6-4 record. Santa Fe showed big improvement after shattering expectations to finish above .500 following a one-win season in 2012. Bill Wiles enters his third year with the Raiders and he wants to continue having an old-school offense.
“We want to be physical. With all the spread offenses and finesse type offenses and all that, people don’t see a whole lot of (teams) that hit you in the mouth,” said Wiles. “That’s what we do.”
The Panthers will look to stomp on the smash-mouth style with a defense that includes Florida State commit Ja’len Parks.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
** Some other area games feature PK Yonge playing Williston and Lafayette facing Trenton in a Class 1A match up.
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