October 24, 2009 10:29:00 PM
Apprehension and shock were the common denominators that linked coaches Bubba Davis and John Cooley before and after the Columbus High School football team''s 28-0 win against Horn Lake here Friday evening.
"After our 12-7 win against DeSoto Central last week, I was worried whether we would come out and play like we are capable of against Horn Lake," Davis said. "That had me worried, as did the fact Horn Lake played a very good Olive Branch team right down to the wire (last week) before losing by just one point (28-27)."
Cooley, like Davis, worried all week whether his Eagles would suffer an emotional letdown after losing to Olive Branch, which annually is one of the state''s top prep programs.
"I''m sure losing last week like that had something to do with our performance tonight," Cooley said. "I guess we left everything on the field last week and it probably would have been better if they (Olive Branch) had beaten us 40-0."
While Davis'' worries came to naught after his Falcons'' turned in what he termed "as close to a complete game as could be expected," Cooley''s concerns proved to be warranted.
Following the game, both coaches were shocked at the relative ease in which the Falcons won.
"If you had told me we were going to win by 28-0, I wouldn''t have believed you," Davis said. "I knew if we played well, we''d have a good chance to win, but I thought we were going to be in for a real fight from start to finish. I expected to see a much different Horn Lake team than the one which showed up."
Cooley was also shocked at the outcome.
"After playing so well and coming so close last week, I can''t believe we played as poorly as we did," Cooley said. "We were outplayed in every facet of the game by a very good football team that played very hard against us. As things turned out, we turned the ball over and we gave them excellent field position and they took advantage of our mistakes. This was totally unexpected."
It didn''t take long for Cooley''s worst nightmare to materialize, as defensive back Byerson Cockrell intercepted quarterback Josh Cooley near midfield on the Eagles'' first play from scrimmage. His 21-yard interception return gave Columbus a first down at the Horn Lake 24.
Eight plays later, seven of which were runs by Damian Baker, Baker scored from 1 yard out. Avery Ford added the extra point to give Columbus a 7-0 lead at the 8-minute, 5-second mark of the first quarter.
A short Horn Lake punt set Columbus up at its 49 on the Falcons'' second possession. The ensuing 12-play drive, aided by a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty, culminated in a 5-yard keeper by quarterback Cedric Jackson with 1:02 left in the first period. Ford added the PAT kick, the second of his four on the night.
A partially blocked punt on Horn Lake''s next possession gave Columbus a first down at the Eagles'' 40, but a Jackson pass slipped through the hands of Randy Brown and was intercepted by Tiven Kershaw in the end zone to prevent Columbus from scoring a third touchdown.
Yet another short punt set the Falcons up deep in Horn Lake territory moments later. The Falcons responded with a seven-play, 37-yard drive that Jackson finished with a 1-yard sneak. Ford''s kick with 4:26 left before halftime made it 21-0.
Baker (31 carries, 110 yards) had a 9-yard run to keep the drive alive. Jackson also connected with Randall Cooper on a key 21-yard pass on a third-and-13 from the 28.
Columbus missed a second scoring opportunity on its initial possession of the second half when a fourth-and-4 from the Horn Lake 19 came up short, but the Falcons forced another three-and-out to give the offense a first down at the Eagles'' 47.
Four running plays moved the ball to the Horn Lake 33, where Jackson hooked up with Deontae Jones over the middle for the Falcons'' fourth touchdown with 2:25 left in the third quarter. Ford added the extra point to complete the scoring.
"Offensively, we controlled the ball for long periods of time," said Davis, who credited offensive linemen Drew Jordan, Zach Thomas, Ricky Knox, Denzel Baker, and Ryan McDonald with opening holes and giving Jackson time to throw.
"Cedric (Jackson) showed a great deal of improvement over last week and managed the game well, while Damian (Baker) led the way on the ground," Davis said.
Seconds after the Falcons'' final score, Ford turned in the defensive play of the game when he saved a touchdown after running Horn Lake speedster Jay Jones down at the Columbus 15 a 70-yard kickoff return. Columbus then stopped two running plays for no gain and Travaro Jones sacked Cooley for a 6-yard loss on third down to set up a Martin Sherrod interception in the end zone as the buzzer ended the third period.
Late in the fourth period, Sherrod stepped in front of a second Cooley pass at the Columbus 14 to thwart Horn Lake''s final bid to avoid the shutout.
"Our defense did an outstanding job," Davis said. "They did not give up a first down until late in the fourth quarter, and that was the only one they earned except for one we gave them on a penalty right after that."
Davis credited linebackers Caleb Richardson and Chris Jackson and defensive tackle Chris Wolfe for leading a stingy defensive effort that limited Horn Lake to 22 total yards - 8 yards rushing on 17 tries and 14 passing yards.
"The defense kept getting the ball back for us after just three plays and that kept them rested and fresh the entire game," Davis said. "This is what you''d call a good team win, and winning just makes you want to win some more."
With Starkville''s loss to Olive Branch on Friday, Columbus (3-6, 2-3) is still in the hunt for a 6A playoff spot. South Panola (5-0), Olive Branch (4-1) and Southaven (3-2) and Starkville (3-2) have the inside tracks on earning the district''s four playoff spots. Tupelo (2-3) is tied with Columbus.
South Panola and Olive Branch are virtual locks for two of the four playoff berths, with Southaven a good bet for the third spot with only DeSoto Central (0-5) and Horn Lake (1-4) left on its schedule. That leaves the fourth and final playoff spot to be decided by Starkville, Tupelo, and Columbus.
"If we can win out, I think we can make the playoffs," Davis said. "That means we have to win at Olive Branch and then beat Starkville at home to close the season. Lose to either one of them and it''s anybody''s guess because then you have to depend on others to determine your fate."