September 19, 2009 11:33:00 PM
Louisville High School quarterback Chris Wraggs said his team''s game Friday night against Columbus was exciting because it was sloppy.
Wraggs meant the playing field, as rain delayed the start of the game an hour due to the rain, and continued through the first half.
The field wasn''t the only aspect of the game that was sloppy.
The teams combined for more than 200 yards lost to penalties, but Wraggs and the Wildcats did more than enough to come away with a 34-20 victory.
"We probably made more mistakes against Louisville than we have (in any game) all year," said Columbus coach Bubba Davis, whose Class 6A team committed six turnovers and slipped to 1-3. "In the first half, we dug a hole, and you can''t expect to win against a good team and make as many mistakes as we did."
Wraggs fumbled the second snap but saved the drive by recovering the football for a 3-yard gain, only to have the Falcons stop the drive. Columbus gave the football back to Louisville when Randy Brown fumbled on a fourth-down run.
After the Falcons shut down the Class 4A Wildcats again, Cedric Jackson made passing in the rain look easy, hitting Deontae Jones (six catches, 94 yards) with a 25-yard scoring strike.
"Louisville put too many defenders in the box," Davis said. "If you can''t run you have to pass, and even in the rain you have a chance to make (passing) plays."
In the following kickoff, Zan Carter kept his balance on the mushy field and maneuvered through defenders into open field for a touchdown.
Four drives later, Wraggs passed for 56 yards to set up his 2-yard scoring burst.
"We throw the ball. That is our offense," said Louisville High coach Brad Peterson, whose program won the Class 3A state title last year. "Even in wet weather we''re still gonna throw it."
Columbus'' Jaylon Barry fumbled the kickoff return and gave the ball back to Louisville. Wraggs capitalized with a 21-yard touchdown run.
"Special teams killed us," Davis said. "We gave up that touchdown on the kickoff and fumbled the kickoff return. That''s the difference in the game right there, two plays."
Jackson led a successful drive on the next possession, going 3-for-4 with 28 yards, only to throw an interception that set Louisville up on the Falcons'' 25-yard line.
Louisville took advantage of a 15-yard penalty before Wraggs inched his way into the end zone for his third touchdown.
"Every time I run the ball I''m thinking 6," Wraggs said.
In the third snap of the second half, the Falcons lost another fumble.
Louisville then made a rare strategic decision and punted the ball on third-and-30 after penalties, two of them on Wraggs for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"That was just some undisciplined stuff we have to fix," Peterson said. "It was also the first time in my career I punted on third down. Zach McGarr (punter) said, ''But coach, it''s third down,'' and I told him to just punt it."
Jackson helped Columbus rally, completing 4 of 6 passes for 45 yards to set the stage for Damien Baker''s 3-yard touchdown run.
"Jones caught several passes and Damien Baker ran for 100 yards (22 carries, 91 yards)," Davis said. "They gave us a chance to get back in the game."
On the next drive, Louisville lost 30 yards to four penalties to help Columbus keep the momentum.
The Wildcats provided even more assistance, accumulating 25 more yards in penalties on the Falcons'' next drive. Baker made them pay with another touchdown run, closing the gap to eight points.
"I think in any football game, if you don''t put it away when you have the chance the other team can always come back," Peterson said. "Columbus built momentum, and momentum is huge in football."
While Louisville racked up another 10 yards in penalties, the lost yardage only added to Wraggs'' passing total. On third-and-20, Wraggs found CJ Bell, who jogged into the end zone after a defender fell.
"It was third down with a mile and a half to go," Davis said. "We blew our coverage, and if you mess up, they will find where you messed up and score."
Said Peterson, "This was a huge play because it was third down and we were looking at punting and Columbus could have evened the score. Big play for Wraggs, because it was not drawn up that way, and he had to improvise."
The Wildcats had 14 penalties and lost 120 yards.
"We lost our focus," Peterson said. "We''ve gotta do a better job of keeping focus and keeping the penalties down."
Davis said the loss came down to too many mistakes against a good team.
"Next week, we start over 0-0, because these four games don''t count in district play," he said. "Like everyone else, we''ll be playing for the playoffs."
Columbus has a good shot at making district play, Davis said, if the Falcons cut down on mistakes.
"In all three losses we stayed in the game and had a chance to win all three," he said. "We just have to quit killing ourselves."
From here on out it all depends on the players, Davis said.
"We coach them to execute every week," he said. "They just have to decide to go out and play like it is the most important thing they can do.
"We can''t play for them. They have to play for themselves."