Powell-led Tigers take advantage of 'Cane errors


Published: Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 1, 2007 at 1:12 a.m.

LAKE CITY With heralded senior defensive end Earl Okine playing both ways, Gainesville High was looking for a bright start to the season.

In the end, the Hurricanes couldn't overcome some early special teams mistakes.

Sophomore tailback Tiger Powell rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns, lifting Columbia to a 34-23 win over the Hurricanes at Tiger Stadium.

Columbia scored 19 of its points off three Gainesville turnovers and added nine more points off two botched Gainesville punt snaps.

"Obviously, the difference in the ballgame was special teams play," Gainesville coach Eddy Moore said. "A good team like Columbia is going to make you pay when you make some mistakes."

Gainesville led 7-2 early in the second quarter after Eric Brown returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown. But Columbia rallied for 19 points in the final 4:34 of the half to take control of the game.

Columbia led 34-7 early in the fourth quarter before Gainesville rallied for two late touchdowns and two two-point conversions against Columbia's second-team defense.

With 10 new starters on offense, Columbia controlled the tempo of the game with 212 yards rushing and 70 more yards passing.

"We did some good things on offense, some good things on special teams," Columbia coach Danny Green said. "Defensively, we let up a little at the end. I just wished we could have closed it out a little better."

Okine, a 6-foot-7, 242-pound Florida commitment, lined up at both tight end and defensive end, but couldn't spark the Gainesville offense until it was too late.

Gainesville fell behind 2-0 early when a botched snap sailed out of the end zone over the head of punter Aaron Brockington. It was the sign of things to come.

The late second-quarter meltown for Gainesville began when Columbia cornerback James Beasley picked off a Trevor Wooden pass, returning it 14 yards to the GHS 11-yard line. Three plays later, Powell plunged in from two yards out, giving Columbia a 9-7 lead.

Senior quarterback Jeremiah Cook extended the Columbia lead to 15-7, finding receiver Darrell Underwood in single coverage down the right sideline for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:11 remaining.

Gainesville was looking for a big play again from Brown, but it backfired. Wooden's pitch attempt to Brown on an end around sailed behind him. Columbia linebacker Marquis Davis scooped up the loose ball and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 21-7 lead it took into halftime.

The second half began as ominous, with Brockington unable to field a low punt snap. Again Davis was there, rumbling 20 yards to the GHS five. Powell scored his second touchdown from five yards out, putting Columbia up 27-7 in the third quarter.

Cook connected with Underwood again on a 38-yard touchdown pass before Gainesville's offense showed signs of life. Wooden, benched early in the third quarter, came back to lead Gainesville on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter.

Wooden's prime target, receiver Alex Alsop, caught six passes for 123 yards. A five-yard touchdown run from Kevin Nelson cut the Columbia lead to 34-23 with 4:34 remaining, but the Tigers closed out the game with some tough yards from Powell.

"I wish we could have moved the ball like that earlier in the game," Moore said. "We worked in a lot of different guys on offense, a lot of new guys in on special teams. Hopefully the experience will help us down the road."

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