Tigers go for regional title in Panhandle
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 29, 2012 at 7:34 p.m.
After dismantling their first two opponents, St. Johns Bartram Trail and No. 3 St. Augustine at home in the state football playoffs, the fifth-ranked Columbia Tigers head to the Panhandle tonight for round three.
The prize is a state semifinal berth in Lake City against either No. 1 Gainesville or Seffner Armwood next week
But first things first. The No. 10 Navarre Raiders (11-1) await in the Class 6A, Region 1 finals. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. CST).
Both Columbia (11-1) and Navarre have won 10 straight games since falling in week two, the Tigers at Gainesville (17-14), the Raiders at Pensacola (25-24). Second-year coach Brian Allen has Columbia one win from the final four, but knows Navarre will be a tough test.
The Raiders are under first-year coach Jay Walls, who is very familiar with the Tigers, facing them eight straight years (1996-2003) while coach at Suwannee.
“I give praise to anyone out there in round three,” said Allen, whose team beat St. Augustine 34-8 in last week's regional semifinals. “You have to be good. He (Walls) is familiar with Columbia, but this team won't be what he saw when he was in Live Oak.
“I know for them to be at home is to their advantage. I know it helped us the last two weeks. They will be fired up.”
The Tigers have been physically whipping opponents behind the running of senior Ronnie Timmons (1,546 yards, 20 TDs), who is getting gaping holes off the left side from highly recruited left tackle Laremy Tunsil.
“They are definitely one of the best O-lines we have faced,” Wall said. “We have faced some pretty good O-lines in Niceville and Pace that were really physical. Columbia certainly has a great one in Tunsil.”
The Raiders, who advanced after winning at Milton (20-12), have a physical runner themselves in Jay Warren (1,721 yards, 19 TDs) and a primary receiver in Jordan Leggett (50 catches, 854 yards, 7 TDs) who has caught most of QB Andrew Rieves' passes.
Tiger QB Jayce Barber has passed for 1,363 yards with 15 TDs and just two interceptions. The Columbia defense, led by linebackers Terry Calloway, Felix Woods and Drew Clark, has been dominating, allowing just 25 points in the last six games.
“Columbia always has great athletes, especially on the defensive end,” Walls said. “I expect it to be a very physical game.”
Allen knows very well what a victory would mean to his team and his hometown, which would host its first state semifinal in a long time.
“It should be fun, but we are not going to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “It is one quarter at a time, one game at a time. I'm excited about the opportunity to travel and showcase this group.”
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