Columbus football had just stopped New Hope within the Trojans’ 5-yard line on third and long, and the visitors were forced to punt out of their end zone.
New Hope was leading just 3-0 at the time, with less than nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game at Columbus High.
In a split second, the tides turned. New Hope got off a bad snap on the punt as the ball hit the crossbar of the uprights. The Trojans recovered it in the end zone for a safety, but Columbus finally got on the board, down just 3-2.
On the ensuing free kick, senior Zywan Lacey took the ball at his own 45-yard line and took it to the house, giving Columbus (1-4) an 8-3 lead that it hung onto for its first win of the season.
“We knew it was going to be a tough ballgame coming in,” Columbus head coach Joshua Pulphus said. “We knew their defense would be great, their offense would be great, but we’re proud of our kids for continuing to fight.”
For the first three quarters or so of the game, it seemed like a war of attrition on the field between two teams struggling to find any semblance of an offensive game.
New Hope (2-2) came into the game without its starting quarterback, Hayden Dodson, who had an AC sprain that was bothering him after last week’s game.
The Trojans cycled through quarterbacks during the game, mostly using Tre’ Doughty and Nick Cotton. Doughty and Cotton responded well but struggled in the passing game as New Hope went to the ground and tried to establish the run as best as it could.
“It was something that we prepared for, but we thought they competed well on a big stage,” New Hope head coach Seth Stillman said. “We’re really proud of those guys.”
On the other side of things, Columbus, which came into Friday’s game having scored just six points the entire season, had its own struggles establishing the run and pass game.
Both teams didn’t rely on passing that much, with just 20 combined pass attempts between the Trojans and Falcons.
However, Columbus slowly gained confidence through its ground game, especially from starting quarterback Shaun Williams, who led the Falcons with 84 rushing yards on 24 carries.
“I feel like we have to get better, but we did a decent job,” Williams said. “We’re going to continue to get better.”
Friday was an encouraging step forward for the offense, but at the end of the day, Lacey’s kickoff return put the Falcons in front for good.
With New Hope being pushed back on that kickoff due to the safety, that gave Columbus a shorter field, and once Lacey found an opening down the right sideline, he took full advantage.
“We stayed locked in and continued to execute throughout the game,” Lacey said. “This first win feels real good, but we have to stay focused. There’s more and more to do.”
This week, Columbus didn’t focus on being 0-4, instead focusing on trying to get to 1-0 in district play and the Falcons did just that.
New Hope had chances at the end of the fourth quarter to come down the field and score, but the Columbus defense played inspired and shut down the Trojans when it needed to most.
Columbus looks to go 2-0 in district play as it takes on Greenville at home next Friday while New Hope has another tough task on its hands, taking on West Point in its next game.
Columbus 8, New Hope 3
New Hope (2-2) 0 0 3 0 — 3
Columbus (1-4) 0 0 0 8 — 8
NH — Cole Crawford 36 FG, clock 6:57
C — Safety, clock 8:30
C — Zywan Lacey 55 kickoff return (kick failed), clock 8:16
PASSING: New Hope — Tre’ Doughty 2-6, 33, Nick Cotton 3-7, 27, Alex Dawkins 2-2, 16; Columbus — Shaun Williams 3-6, 13.
RUSHING: New Hope — LaDarius Tate 12-71, Tre’ Doughty 10-7, Alex Dawkins 1-0, Nick Cotton 1-2, Jordan Bailey 2-(-4); Columbus — Shaun Williams 24-84, Zywan Lacey 2-0, Deion Williams 1-1, Benji Vaughn 2-4, Hemyar Nagi 2-6.
RECEIVING: New Hope — Tre’ Doughty 3-26, Nick Bailey 1-6, Grant Fleming 2-33, RJ Grassiree 1-6; Columbus — Zywan Lacey 2-7, Benji Vaughn 1-5.
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