Columbus has played from behind all season, and the Falcons had to play from behind again on Friday night.
Trailing 14-7 for much of the game against Lake Cormorant, and for nearly all of the second half, the Falcons seemingly fought for every yard in the fourth quarter, but they got the job done thanks to strong defense and perseverance on an emotional senior night.
Head coach Joshua Pulphus gave credit to his team for fighting on a senior night during which they honored former player Ashton Taylor, a member of the class of 2023 who passed away in 2020. After the emotional tribute, and after a tough season in which they started 0-4, Columbus’ offense came through. A score and a stop in the final few minutes gave them the win over the Gators.
“The fight and the hunger of this team is great,” he said. “This is a young team, and they’re still learning how to finish games, but once again they did a great job fighting for each and every quarter. We’re still making a few silly mistakes, but I’m proud of the resilience.”
It was two seniors who got the job done as well, with Hemyar Nagi scoring the touchdown and Zywan Lacey running it in on a bold two-point conversion attempt to take a 15-14 lead.
A game-sealing interception by Destin Poindexter soon followed, and the Falcons (5-5) moved to 5-1 in district play with the win over Lake Cormorant (4-6).
“We fought through adversity in the first half, and we came out in the second half to fight through that adversity and we won,” Nagi said after the win. His role in the goal-line offense was crucial in both touchdowns, and his sneak on the final score was the breakthrough the Falcons needed after coming up short on their three previous drives into Gators territory.
“Ain’t a better feeling than (winning on senior night), but we’ve still gotta come back and go 1-0 next week,” Nagi said. “We’re 1-0 tonight, celebrate tonight, but come back and go 1-0 next week.”
It took a lot to keep the Falcons’ objective in focus in this game — and after their 0-4 start — but part of the plan was always keeping the bigger picture in perspective, according to Pulphus.
“It helped the team because they learned how to play the game fast,” Pulphus said of the difficult non-district schedule. “By playing Starkville, or Louisville, a potential 4A state champion, those teams know how to fight for four quarters. Shaun Williams does a great job, a young quarterback, but they rallied behind him. We knew we would have growing pains, but they saw the big picture because of the offseason, and they saw those games not just in terms of wins and losses, but as a way to get better.”
Even with a playoff spot secured, the job isn’t finished for the Falcons. They now have a shot to win a share of the district crown next Thursday, traveling to face reigning district champion West Point in a high-stakes rivalry matchup to end the regular season.
Columbus 15, Lake Cormorant 14
Lake Cormorant (4-6) 7 7 0 0 — 14
Columbus (5-5) 7 0 0 8 — 15
LC — Curdarrius Bullock 15 run (Dennis Walker kick), clock 3:04
C — Shaun Williams 5 run (Courtavien Clark kick), clock 2:12
LC — Baker Walker 1 run (Walker kick), clock 11:52
C — Hemyar Nagi 1 run (Zywan Lacey run), clock 4:25
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