The Columbia Tigers (7-2, 2-1) rebounded from consecutive turnover-plagued losses on the road against the Middleburg Broncos (2-7, 0-3), with a 48-23 victory powered by their explosive offense.
First Half Fireworks
The game started with a Columbia three-and-out, but this was not a sign of things to come. After Stone Newsome’s run gave Middleburg a 6-0 lead on their first possession, the Tigers responded quickly with QB Jordan Smith’s 69-yard touchdown keeper.
Middleburg was able to cash in a field goal on their next drive, but it was all Tigers for the remainder of the half.
The very first play of the ensuing drive saw USF commits Jordan Smith and Marquez Bell connect over the middle on a pass that Bell ran in for a 70-yard score.
A quick stop led to an all-Kylen Callum drive for the Tigers, as the senior running back scampered for a tough 50 yards to Middleburg’s 5-yard line, and then cashed in with a run up the middle.
Kyren Callum’s 5 yard touchdown makes it 21-9 Columbia. His 50-yard run set the Tigers up deep in Bronco territory. @ESPNGainesville @sports_CHSLC @TigerTownCHS @ThePrepZone pic.twitter.com/J94pbvrLTb
— Jake Lehman (@Jake_lehman_) October 25, 2019
Columbia was able to score once more before the half ended, on a 61-yard pass from Smith to DJ Bennett. Bennett broke a couple of tackles after the catch and proceeded to carry multiple Broncos into the end zone with him on the rumbling, bumbling, stumbling score.
Broncos Go Down Fighting
After Columbia scored two more quick touchdowns to start the second half, including a 54-yard strike to Marquez Bell, it seemed like the rout could have gotten out of hand.
@kingjrow21 to @Mbell_TheGoat for 6. The USF commits connect for another score and their Columbia Tigers lead Middleburg 35-9. @ESPNGainesville @ThePrepZone @TigerTownCHS @sports_CHSLC @USFFootball pic.twitter.com/4dPK3B4a0u
— Jake Lehman (@Jake_lehman_) October 26, 2019
However, the Middleburg sideline remained upbeat and focused, as players and coaches fired each other up.
A drive propelled by quarterback Joe Justino’s deep ball to Laron Bryant was capped by Stone Newsome’s second rushing touchdown, and the Columbia run of 35 unanswered was finally over.
Middleburg’s next offensive drive saw their methodical run game drive down the field, and another Stone Newsome score made it 42-23.
2-point conversion for Middleburg is good! After another Stone Newsome rushing TD, Joe Justino connects with Trevor Todd in the end zone. 42-23 Columbia midway through the final quarter. @ESPNGainesville @ThePrepZone @sports_CHSLC pic.twitter.com/JdJyYuZiRp
— Jake Lehman (@Jake_lehman_) October 26, 2019
After the game, Joe Justino said, “We continued to do what we can do, utilizing what we have. We kept running the ball and our offensive line did a great job. We kept fighting and did not give up.”
The second-teamers got some playing time in the fourth quarter for Columbia’s offense, and sophomore Kade Jackson’s 34-yard pass sealed it for his Tigers. Jordan Smith was excited to see his backup score, and said, “He’s always cheering me on, giving me tips when he sees something that I don’t. I give kudos to him because it’s hard to sit on the sideline but he’s only a sophomore.”
Much-Needed Bounce Back for Columbia
After the game, Jordan Smith made it clear that Friday’s turnover-free showing from the offense is the expectation moving forward. “I tried to get the ball out of my hands quicker, getting it out while they’re open rather than waiting to make a big play while they’re covered. This game was a confidence booster after going through some adversity. This group’s really not that used to losing. This is a statement game, we came out and got our mojo back.”
On the solid performance from his defense, USF commit Levontae Camiel said, “After they went up 9-7, we just had to adjust on the sideline. We know we’re supposed to win games like this so we just had to fix up a couple things.”
Camiel stressed that they had an intense week of practice following the two losses, as he said “It was an intense week, we practiced communicating on the field a lot more. We’re supposed to be, what, 8-0, 9-0? We’re glad that the two losses humbled us, and we’re done looking past opponents.”
Middleburg will wrap up their season on the road next Thursday, against the 7-2 Baldwin Indians of 3A. Columbia returns home to face the 7-2 North Marion Colts of 5A, on senior night. On preparing for the regular-season finale, Levontae Camiel said, “North Marion – they’re a heavy hitter. We’re all looking forward to them.” While his Tigers hope to end the regular season on a positive note, they know the playoffs are looming. They will likely enter the 6A playoffs as a wild card, as a result of their loss to district rival Robert E. Lee. Camiel added, “You know it gets cold around this time of year – playoff time – but we get hot.”