Columbia rolls past GHS in weather-delayed opener
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 12:57 a.m.
LAKE CITY — On a Friday night when turbulent skies threatened to cancel a Class 6A top-10 matchup, No. 7 Columbia's ground game showed no signs of slowing down against fifth-ranked Gainesville.
Following a stoppage of more than two hours in the first quarter, the host Tigers (1-0) racked up 307 rushing yards and six touchdowns by three players in a 49-7 win over the Hurricanes (0-1).
“Our kids were motivated,” said third-year CHS coach Brian Allen. “We haven't beat this team in two years. Since I've been here, we haven't beaten them.”
Allen, who, along with first-year GHS coach Mark Latsko, was looking for his first victory in the rivalry, gambled with an onside kick on the game's restart, which was recovered by Columbia's Roger Cray.
Two plays later, Tigers running back Lonnie Underwood plunged in from 3 yards out for his first score. On Columbia's following possession, Underwood gashed Gainesville's defense on a 53-yard touchdown run.
“He's going to be one of the best backs that we've had here,” Allen said. “This year, he's manning it himself and has the opportunity to break all of the school records that are here.”
The Tigers would score the game's opening 27 points behind its powerful backfield tandem of Underwood and fullback Kamario Bell. Underwood, a junior, rushed for 217 yards on 30 carries, while Bell added scoring dives of 3 and 9 yards to his blocking responsibilities.
Gainesville, meanwhile, struggled to find open running lanes for senior speedster Tony James. James, who had a 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter brought back by a holding call, also saw five of his 14 carries go for negative yards before finishing with a 3-yard total.
While the Hurricanes' lone score came on quarterback Caelen Christian's 26-yard touchdown strike to Kenric Young in the second quarter, the sophomore signal-caller also had a pair of turnovers that led to scores.
After throwing an earlier interception to CHS senior Terry Calloway, Christian fumbled the ball at his own 15-yard line in the third, which was scooped up for a score by linebacker Zedrick Woods.
“When things out of your control like the elements happen, I've got to do a better job of keeping us focused in the locker room and maintaining our intensity,” Latsko said. “I dropped the ball out there and we had a bad game between the lines, but Columbia was under the same adversity.”
Gainesville's schedule doesn't get any easier with games against Eastside and Madison County in consecutive weeks, while Columbia travels Thursday to Tallahassee Lincoln.