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Columbus looks to rebound from near-miss in opener

 

Adam Minichino

 

The victory was there for the taking. 

 

When you have been coaching for 30-plus years like Tony Stanford, you're bound to have a few games when things just don't go your way.  

 

Watching the film the next day or two days later never helps, either. A repeat performance only serves to accentuate the point that plays were there to be made, only to see an opposing player slip a block or to have two of your defenders converge on the football and watch the receiver come out of the mix and run for a touchdown. 

 

That what the scenario that unfolded for Stanford and the Columbus High School football team in a 21-10 loss to Noxubee County on Friday night. It played out again Monday when Stanford, his coaches, and his players watched the videotape of their season opener. 

 

"The halftime score should have been 21-0 our way," Stanford said. "The interception on film from the waist up he is in the end zone. They put it on the 1-yard-line or the half-yard line. The first play, what we are trying to run is wide open. We let two blocks slide inside of us. The second play wasn't worth a darned. The third play was a missed block by a lineman and what we were trying to do, the back was out there by himself. 

 

"It is kids making mistakes. That is what happens early in the season. We will get better as it goes, but we had a chance to win the ballgame until Trace (Lee) got hurt." 

 

Lee, the Falcons' senior quarterback, was forced the leave the game after he was swarmed on three consecutive plays. The final hit was by Jeffery Simmons. Lee missed the next series, returned for one series, and didn't play in the fourth quarter. 

 

Stanford praised the play of senior Kevin Jackson, who stepped in for Lee, but he admitted Jackson isn't a quarterback, which contributed to the fact Columbus gained only 37 yards in the second half. 

 

On the other hand, Columbus couldn't capitalize when it has excellent chances to score, like the one Stanford mentioned early in the first quarter after an interception of Timorrius Conner. Noxubee County (1-1) then took over and drove 97 yards for the first touchdown, a 6-yard pass from Conner to Simmons. 

 

Noxubee County's second touchdown came on another pass play two Columbus defensive backs seemed to have bottled up. The only problem was neither Falcon caught the ball and knocked each other out of the play, which allowed Kynbotric Mason to cash in on a 60-yard touchdown. Simmons' fumble return for a touchdown capped Noxubee County's scoring. 

 

Stanford said Lee complained of a headache after being sacked twice and being stopped on a running play. Lee didn't dress out for practice Tuesday, and Stanford said the coaches planned to work Jackson in as the starter in case Lee wasn't able to play Friday against New Hope. 

 

Despite losing his quarterback and the season opener, Stanford remains confident about the Falcons' chances this season. He said he likes how hard his players are working and their desire to win. The silver lining, he hopes, is when you lose a close ballgame like that you end up beating somebody you're not supposed to. 

 

To accomplish that goal, Stanford hopes his offensive line continues to mature. He likes the experience the Falcons have up front with four returners, but he said the linemen have to make up for their lack of speed by holding their blocks and executing even better. 

 

"We had bodies on both people," Stanford said. "It is just enough penetration to cause trouble on the goal line. But they will work hard. They will get better." 

 

Stanford said the players saw how close they were from beating a program that won a Class 4 state championship last season. For Columbus, which made the Class 6A playoffs last season, the maturation -- or construction project, as Stanford called it -- is an on-going process, especially when you are trying to develop skill position players to have multiple playmakers. 

 

With non-region games against West Point and Louisville up next after New Hope, Stanford feels his team will be battle-tested before it begins Region 2 play. Rival Starkville, which won the Class 5A state title and defeated Noxubee County 17-0 in its season opener, is Columbus' first region game. 

 

"We're going to win some ballgames. There is no doubt in my mind," Stanford said.

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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