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Atlantic-Delray Hands Columbia Second Straight Loss

The Atlantic Eagles of Delray Beach beat the Columbia Tigers 35-21 on a rainy Friday night in Lake City, with a strong performance on both sides of the ball.

Excitement Early On

Like many of Columbia’s games this season, the passing game got moving was effective early. Jordan Smith found Andrew Myers between multiple defenders in the end zone, taking a 7-0 lead on the impressive pass play.

After forcing a three-and-out, the Tigers were knocking on the door again behind Smith’s arm and a long third-down scramble. However, a forced fumble on a massive hit by Atlantic safety Jeremiah McClendon near the goal line changed the complexion of the game.

The fumble was returned all the way to Atlantic’s thirty-yard line, and the Eagle offense was then able to piece together a 70-yard touchdown drive capped by the first of Bry’yon Jones’s three touchdowns.

Atlantic Imposes Will

The turnover followed by Jones’ touchdown set the tone for the rest of Atlantic’s performance, as they were able to score 21 unanswered in the first half.

After forcing a rare Columbia three-and-out, the Eagles next drive featured a 30-yard pass to junior athlete Tyler Burke, followed by a seven-yard touchdown run by Burke to make it 14-7.

Atlantic’s swarming defense was able to keep Columbia’s star QB Jordan Smith under constant duress, and the Eagles’ next score came after a Marquis Lymon interception return set up the offense at the one-yard line.

The always-dangerous Columbia passing game was able to add a score before half to stop the drought, on a 32-yard pass from Jordan Smith to Tray Tolliver after Smith escaped from a swarm of Eagle defenders.

Defense and Ground Game Key Second Half

After giving up their fair share of big plays to the electric Jordan Smith in the first half, Atlantic’s defensive adjustments proved successful, as Columbia’s only second-half touchdown came on a Dante Brown pick-six.

On what changed for his team after halftime, Atlantic head coach T.J. Jackson said, “It was about getting our kids lined up properly and playing fast. We didn’t finish the plays on those two touchdowns in the first half.”

A key takeaway from the game was the raw talent and intensity of the Atlantic defense, led by senior Louisville commit Henry Bryant at defensive tackle, and sophomore Marquis Lymon in the secondary.

Lymon already holds an offer from Penn State, and got to rock Atlantic’s flashy turnover chain twice on Friday.

After the game, Lymon said that playing “South Florida ball,” with an element of “swag,” is crucial to the team’s success and intense nature of play. He also stressed the extra preparation that went into a matchup against the high-flying Columbia duo of Jordan Smith and wide receiver Marquez Bell.

Offensively, Atlantic’s second-half was keyed by tough running from senior running back Bry’yon Jones, with just enough passing from senior quarterback Jacoby Dorch.

Despite an ankle injury early in the third quarter, Jones bounced back for two more touchdowns and generally carried the load on the ground for the entire fourth quarter. Coach Jackson said that after his injury, Jones “did not want to come out of the game. He got his ankle taped, and continued to go on with his motor.”

On his own gritty performance, Jones said “I leave it all up to my teammates. This is a pretty special team, the best I’ve ever been on.”

What’s Next

After a 6-0 start, Columbia has suffered two straight losses, characterized by seven combined turnovers. The Tigers (6-2, 1-1) will look to bounce on the road next Friday against district opponent Middleburg (2-6, 0-2). Atlantic (5-2, 2-0) will head back t0 South Florida to face Blanche Ely of Pompano Beach (7-1, 2-0) in a game that will determine the 7A District 13 title.

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