September 14, 2013 5:20:40 PM
WEST POINT -- Columbus High School football coach Tony Stanford sent a stern message to his team Friday night.
"Now, we know what you are capable of," Stanford said. "We want to see this many more Friday nights."
In perhaps its most complete game in Stanford's four seasons as head coach, Columbus routed West Point 41-14 in a non-region prep football game played at Hamblin Stadium.
Highly-touted West Point running back Aeris Williams had scored six touchdowns and run for 427 yards in two games. The Columbus defense held Williams to 46 rushing yards on 20 carries. Damian Moore and Jalen Stewart led a dominating performance by the Columbus defense.
"The whole plan was to stop No. 22 (Williams)," Stewart said. "He is one of the best players in the state. We knew if we slowed him down, we felt like (West Point) really didn't have anything else who could beat us."
Even Columbus (2-1) was surprised at how successful the game plan. Williams broke off a 3-yard scoring run to cur the Columbus lead to 13-7 late in the first quarter. However, Williams did not find the end zone again and his longest run was 11 yards.
"We were really shocked at how the game played out," Moore said. "You don't expect to come in here and win by a large margin like that. We thought Aeris would get his yards. We just hoped to eliminate the big play."
As good as the Columbus defense was, the Columbus offense was equally stellar.
In a season-opening loss at Noxubee County, senior quarterback Trace Lee was knocked out in the second half with a concussion. Lee slowly eased back into the flow of play in last week's 20-16 win over New Hope. Friday night was much different. Even though Lee completed only 6-of-8 passes, the Falcons moved with precision up and down the field. West Point had entered the contest averaging 44 points per game, so Lee knew his squad might be asked to match scores.
"It was the front of our mind that we had to score and score a lot," Lee said. "Even though you have total confidence in your defense, you know this might be high-scoring. We thought we were going to have to move to chains and really put up some points. From an offensive standpoint, we executed well. There are always things to work on. But you have to be pleased with what happened."
Columbus ran 50 times for 236 yards in the game and only had one turnover. The Falcons dominating ground performance came as a bigger shock since leading rusher Kevin Jackson missed the first three quarters serving a suspension issued by the Mississippi High School Activities Association for a pair of personal foul penalties in the win over New Hope. Fellow senior Kendrick Conner took up the slap, rushing 30 times for 158 yards, with three touchdowns.
"We told Kendrick before the game that he was really going to have a breakout game," Stanford said. "Last week against New Hope, we got him running more North to South. That is when he is at his best. Today, he was really out there running over people.'
Lee sensed Conner was ready before the contest started. Four carries for 27 yards on Columbus' first offensive possession confirmed this belief.
"(Conner) is the biggest goofball on the team," said Lee, who threw touchdown passes to Donsha Walker and Alex Lipscomb. "But there is nobody I want on my side more on a Friday night."
Lee hit Donsha Walker on an 8-yard touchdown pass on the game's first possession. On the next trip down field, Conner scored from three yards out. In perhaps their best drive of the season, the Falcons followed that up by going 78 yards on 14 plays. Again, Conner capped this drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
West Point (1-2) answered with a masterful drive of its own. The Green Wave moved 65 yards on 13 plays. Quarterback Josh Ewing called his own number for a 4-yard touchdown run, creating a 20-14 halftime deficit.
It did appear then the track meet was on. However, in the game's final half, Columbus was the only team to continue scoring. The Falcons scored on three consecutive drives in each half.
"This was the type of game we have been waiting on for a long time around here," Stanford said. "It is the type of win that can help change a program. The first two games, we simply didn't play up to our capabilities. Obviously, tonight we did. Can we keep that up? You hope so, but you never know when you are dealing with 16-17-18 year-olds. However, this team now knows they can do this. When the going gets hard, they know they are capable. It is huge when a team feels that way."
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
2. Loss to Alabama helped MSU baseball re-focus COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Alabama softball team advances; Ole Miss eliminated COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Cohen brings home conference coach of year honors COLLEGE SPORTS