By Scott Walters
Columbus High School found itself two yards away from tying Friday night’s Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 1 Homecoming contest with Southaven.
However, going down at the 2-yard line is where Columbus quarterback Jaelan Craddieth lost possession of the football.
The game’s only turnover was the final swing of momentum play.
The Chargers then reeled off a 96-yard run against the demoralized Falcons’ defense.
That would seal Southaven’s 34-14 victory before a capacity crowd at Falcon Field.
Southaven (3-5, 2-2) scored twice in the final 2 minutes, 12 seconds to keep playoff hopes alive.
On the other end of the spectrum. Columbus (0-8, 0-4) remains winless after its most bitter defeat of the season.
“You eventually run out of things to say the team,” Columbus coach Eric Rice said. “It’s heart-breaking. It’s hard to tell from where we were (if Craddieth) was down or not. The officials said he was. We played about as well as we could play. We did a lot of things right. It’s hard not to see the payoff.”
The well-played contest had the one turnover and limited penalties. The Falcons were flagged four times but were each critical in the outcome of the game.
On offense, Columbus finished with 341 yards of total offense, despite playing without leading rusher Devarkas Ramsey. Craddieth had his most complete game of the season, hitting 8 of 16 pass attempts for 133 yards with no interceptions.
“Jaelan really made some great decisions,” Rice said. “That is a continuation of how he played against Horn Lake. Even though we lost decisively (47-6), he played well and showed some of that growth and maturity we had been wanting to see. He was more under control and more patient. He made the right reads and some good decisions.”
Columbus even hit a home run ball for a second straight week. Craddieth hit Jervorius Vance for an 85-yard touchdown against Horn Lake. This time around, Matthew Leach took an end around 80 yards for a score. Leach appeared to be stopped behind the line of scrimmage but broke two tackles and hurdled another man before sprinting to the end zone.
The try for two failed, so Columbus remained to chase points for the rest of the first half.
In the second quarter, the Falcons drove 61 yards on 15 plays. Craddieth was masterful, including hitting Fred Harris in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal. The duo also found one another for the two-point conversion with 2:56 left in the half.
The teams were tied at 14 at halftime. It was the second time this season the Falcons were tied at halftime.
“Just playing with confidence,” Rice said. “We had some success early and that really carried over to everybody on the team. We talked about having a fast start. Defensively, we played well, just gave up too many big plays. The penalties killed us. They really hurt on the momentum on some drives.”
In the second half, the Southaven running game began to wear down the Columbus defense.
The Chargers cranked out 327 yards on the ground on 34 carries. Quarterback Jordan Hibbler ran 14 times for 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
A partial punt block allowed Southaven a chance to take the lead. After the Codey Sanders’ punt was impacted, Southaven needed only 28 yards on five plays to take the lead.
Trestin Tucker did the scoring honors on a 5-yard run.
Columbus then had a couple of rallies before the final threat moved from the CHS 28-yard-line to the Southaven 2. Jordan converted a huge fourth down, before the drive stalled on the questionable fumble call.
Now, Columbus looks to its final three games looking for a win. Up next is a road trip to Oxford.
“This team will come out and work hard Monday,” Rice said. “We are going to keep trying to get things right.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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