Columbia rallies past Vanguard


Columbia's Javere Smith (51) and Ben Kuykendall (11) tackle Ocala Vanguard's Tyronte Files in the first half at Booster Stadium in Ocala on Friday night. Columbia rallied to win in the final quarter.

Doug Engle/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 1:22 a.m.

OCALA — There was no panic in Lake City Columbia at any point during Friday night's game against Ocala Vanguard.

Not when the Tigers went into the locker room down 14-0 at halftime. Not even when they fell behind 20-7 to start the fourth quarter.

The swagger never left head coach Brian Allen's football team, and the collective confidence paid off as the state's sixth-ranked 6A team scored 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points to stun the Knights, 28-20, at Ocala's Booster Stadium.

“This team is a group that is willing to strain,” Allen explained following the victory. “They go the extra mile and that perseverance paid off tonight. We knew Vanguard was a very good football team, but we knew we weren't going to lay down. That's where your conditioning program comes in.

“I was very pleased with how we responded. These kids believed they could come back and win.”

After gaining just 109 yards in the first half, the Tigers got things rolling over the final two quarters as they rolled up 312 yards, including 192 on the ground.

Running back Ronald Timmons — who rushed for a game-high 165 yards on 28 carries — scored the first of three touchdowns on a 7-yard burst on Columbia's first drive of the second half.

Vanguard would answer with a 90-yard bomb from Adam Robles to Zaghaun Thornton to push the lead back to two scores early in the fourth quarter.

But that would be all the Columbia defense would allow, and Allen decided to simplify his offensive approach when that unit came back onto the field: Run behind 5-star prospect Laremy Tunsil and see if the Knights can stop it.

They couldn't.

Timmons consistently found room on the left side of the line behind the 6-foot-6, 295-pound tackle, going in from 7 yards to make it 20-14, then again from 5 out to give the Tigers their first lead of the game at 21-20.

“He's not No. 1 at his position in the nation for no reason; he's not the No. 3 overall (prospect) for no reason,” Allen said of the coveted Tunsil. “He's just a special talent. But it's not just him. It was a collective effort.”

After Columbia picked off Vanguard's Robles on the ensuing drive, Columbia quarterback Jayce Barber hit Alex Weber for a 32-yard TD pass that sealed the victory for the 4-1 Tigers.

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