Credit: Columbia Tigers High School

Preview: Columbia vs. Jacksonville Lee

The Columbia Tigers and Jacksonville Lee Generals are set to face off in the Class 6A FSHAA Regional Semifinals on Friday.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Tigers (8-3) and Generals (8-3) met once earlier this season on Oct. 11. Lee pulled out a 27-21 victory in overtime against Columbia, forcing five turnovers in the process.

Here’s what to look out for as the two teams are set on a playoff collision course on Friday night.

Defense Wins Championships

Columbia runs a powerhouse offense, averaging 32 points a contest.

Lee isn’t too far behind in that department. The Generals have averaged a respectable 27 points in 11 games this year.

The defense should be the deciding factor in this matchup, however.

Columbia’s defense has made life easy for its offense, surrendering less than 20 points a game this season.

Lee, again, trails right behind Columbia. The Generals’ defense has given up an average of 20.5 points to date.

The immense gap between points scored and points surrendered suggests a defensive battle could be brewing in the regional semifinals.

X-Factors for Columbia and Lee

Football is a quarterback-driven sport. The signal-callers for both the Tigers and Generals back that statement up.

Columbia quarterback Jordan Smith accounts for 260.7 yards per game for the Tigers. Smith’s yardage total is good for 67.7 percent of the Tigers’ offense this season.

Lee sports a more balanced attack in quarterback Cale Zarah, however. Zarah averages 201.2 yards per game for Lee, which accounts for 49.6 percent of the Generals’ offense.

Because both defenses are sharp, the game will depend on which quarterback can keep up with their season trend more.

Columbia head coach Brian Allen spoke about the team’s recent run-ins with Lee and the blooming rivalry between the two programs.

“Man, it seems like we can’t escape them,” he said. “No matter where we go…it doesn’t matter; they’re gonna follow. (Lee’s) in the conversation piece, it seems like every year, so it’s not surprising.”

Looking Ahead

The winner of Friday’s game will go on to face the winner of the Escambia-Mainland game in the regional finals on Nov. 22 at 7:30.

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