September 16, 2012 1:01:32 AM
The list of words to describe Columbus High School quarterback Trace Lee grew Friday night.
The 6-foot-1 junior already had been called an intelligent leader and an accurate passer prior to his team's game Friday against Louisville High. His effort in a 21-13 victory allowed him to add resilient and gutsy to his list of adjectives.
Lee, who ended the game with just 60 passing yards, suffered an injury in the second quarter on a quarterback sneak and couldn't understand why the feeling wouldn't come back in his left arm while Columbus was deep in Louisville territory.
The injury, which affected the nerves in Lee's arm, was similar to the one former University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy suffered in the 2010 National Championship game against the University of Alabama in the Rose Bowl.
"They were telling me about the injury with doctor talk, and all I heard was them telling me I could go," Lee said. "I have confidence in my coaches and teammates, and tonight it was time to have confidence in myself to fight through this boo-boo on my arm."
With Columbus (3-1) unable to find the end zone with backup Keith Brooks, Lee ran back on the field on a fourth-and-goal situation to toss a perfect strike on a crossing route to senior Dalon Moore to tie the score before halftime.
Columbus coach Tony Stanford admitted after the game he intended to call the same play if was in the game, but he felt better about not asking Brooks to throw his first pass of the season in that situation.
"(Trace) is a tough kid that wants to win at everything," Stanford said. "I was sure glad Trace was the one that was in there. He did a great job hitting that backside slant."
Members of the training staff worked on Lee's left arm at halftime. After being told he couldn't hurt the arm any worse and he may regain feeling in the nerves near the elbow later in the game, Lee was determined not to miss another snap.
"My teammates had been fighting hard all night, so it was an easy decision to fight through the pain," Lee said. "We just iced it and the doctors had confidence I could go the rest of the way."
Fortunately, Columbus didn't need Lee's passing touch as tailback Kendrick Conner ran on the right side of the offensive line, where senior tackle and Mississippi State University verbal commitment Jake Thomas helped account for most of the second-half production.
Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder, is leading a patchwork group of newcomers up front that helped Columbus rush for 182 yards against Louisville (3-2).
"Our project the entire year was to get the offensive line put together, so maybe this gets us started right here," Stanford said. "I can hope so, at least."
Conner, who didn't have a carry until there were five minutes left in the first half, finished with a game-high 136 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.
"This is coach Stanford's powerhouse football right now, so when you see big holes like I had, just keep going forward," Conner said.
Conner's 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter sealed the victory despite a late rally by the Wildcats.
Louisville's passing attack, led by the pitch-and-catch combination of quarterback Wyatt Roberts and wide receiver Dontae Jones, had 108 yards in the first 46 minutes. Jones finished with 127 yards on eight receptions and a 40-yard touchdown strike with less than 90 seconds left.
Stanford shouldered the blame for the defensive backfield breakdown on that score.
"That's my mistake for taking my eyes off the prize," Stanford said. "I need to put my players in better position in late-game situations, and that's on me as a coach."
Three turnovers, including two fumbles in Columbus territory, had Louisville coach M.C. Miller confused after the game.
"I thought our kids played well but made some costly turnovers at times where we had the momentum," Miller said. "We can't put our defense in that kind of spot to be on the field so much as they were tonight."
Columbus will travel to Tupelo next week for its first region game of the season, while Louisville will travel to Aberdeen for its last non-region game of the season.
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