Regardless of what happened elsewhere, Columbus High School football coach Tony Stanford’s Falcons still needed to focus Friday night on the task at hand: Beating Grenada.
Columbus did just that, closing the book on the 2011 season with a 48-21 victory.
Behind four first-half touchdowns by senior running back Damian Baker, the Falcons pounced to an early lead and never looked back.
Baker, one of the 21 seniors who played their last game Friday, scored on runs of 15, 20, and 37 yards and caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trace Lee.
“He ran hard,” Stanford said of Baker.
Stanford was worried after a lackluster week of practice that the Falcons would suffer a letdown, but that wasn’t the case. Columbus scored on its first possession in three plays, capped by a Baker touchdown. Columbus (7-4, 4-3 Class 6A, Region 1) scored twice more in the first quarter and led 21-7 after the first quarter.
The gap widened in the second quarter after two more touchdowns, including an 32-yard interception return by defensive back Byerson Cockrell that made it 34-7.
“We were kind of slow and sluggish at practice,” Stanford said. “I think our seniors showed some character coming out here and playing hard even though we might not make the playoffs.”
Columbus needed Southaven to lose to Horn Lake to capture one of the region’s final two playoff berths. But Southaven defeated Horn Lake 54-19 on Friday and eliminated Columbus due to point differential tiebreaker that also included Tupelo (4-3), which lost to region champion Olive Branch.
Stanford told the team after the game he hadn’t heard any score updates and he was proud of his team and the seniors for ending on a strong note.
“Seniors, four years. I love you. We had a ball,” he said.
Justin Verner, another senior, scored a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 41-7. Stanford said it was Verner’s first touchdown, and it came in his final game wearing a purple and gold helmet.
Columbus had 346 rushing yards rushing, 201 coming from Baker. Cedrick Jackson had 100 all-purpose yards, and Lee threw for 92 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver DeMarcus Vance had three receptions for 51 yards.
Running back Jamie Taylor had 66 rushing yards, and Kevin Jackson added a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Cockrell and Damian Moore each intercepted quarterback Payne Horan. The defense sacked him four times.
Horan threw for 202 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for a touchdown. Wide receiver Trey Bledsoe had three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown, and wide receiver Darius White had four receptions for 69 yards and a 75-yard kick return for a touchdown to finish the scoring.
The Chargers (4-7, 1-6) led briefly in the first quarter, responding to the Falcons’ first scoring drive. Horan capped an 11-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 with less than five minutes left in the first quarter.
Columbus then scored 35 consecutive points to take a commanding lead before Horan hit Bledsoe for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter.