Columbia Faces Escambia in Regional Semifinals

The FHSAA Football State Champion Tournament continues Friday and the Columbia Tigers are in a deep in a playoff run. Last season, their last playoff stretch ended in disappointment when they fell to Riverside 17-3 in the regional quarterfinals. However, the Tigers have earned a spot in the regional semifinals after defeating Lincoln 29-6 on home turf.

Now, Columbia head coach Demetric Johnson and his squad travel to Pensacola to take on the Escambia Gators Friday. Escambia triumphed 42-18 over Middleburg.

Heading into Friday

Johnson had high praises for Escambia’s head coach Mike Bennett and his staff.

For Bennett, state championship contention is not unfamiliar. He brought home the hardware for the Pensacola Tigers in 2009 and has been chasing another title since. After a disappointing 62-27 loss to the Central Rockets in the 2019 state championship, Bennett is looking for redemption.

Johnson realizes he cannot underestimate the Gators’ coaching staff and players. His main focus is keeping up the same level of intensity and physicality he saw out of his squad last week.

The Tigers’ defense had an all-star showing against Lincoln with four-star linebacker Jaden Robinson putting on an impressive showing. The Florida commit racked up three sacks and seven tackles.

Scouting the Competition

The Gators are evenly matched competitors, and the Tigers will have to take different approaches than they did with Lincoln.

When analyzing the competition, Johnson said that this week’s matchup has more weapons on offense. One of those threats Johnson has kept a close eye on is quarterback Ammiel Steele.

Steele is a dual threat whose crafty footwork and accuracy has the potential to punish a slacking defense. Steele recorded 108 total passing yards and two touchdowns against Middleburg, which is why Johnson’s making it a priority to put on the pressure.


For Johnson, the Tigers will escape from the Gators if they stay true to three key components: ball security, explosive plays and discipline, he said. This combination is ever more important on the road.


Game Details

Kickoff under the Friday night lights is set for 7 p.m. in Pensacola.

The winner of this faceoff will advance to the regional finals to take on the winner of the Pine Forest-Choctawhatchee game.

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