September 8, 2013 2:49:10 AM
It was a wild ride Friday night as county rivals Columbus and New Hope high school faced off in what has come to be their annual rivalry game.
Eager to bounce back from a crushing defeat to Aberdeen in its season opener, New Hope again found itself on the edge before falling in the closing minutes, 20-16.
New Hope junior quarterback Brady Davis was 23 of 38 for 338 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown and threw for a touchdown. Davis remained calm in the pocket and gave his team numerous scoring opportunities.
"It just hurts," Davis said. "Our biggest problem has been finishing off teams after we get a lead going, and we just need to continue to push and get these teams down big early."
New Hope was looking for a spark early in the third quarter. After gaining 202 yards in the first half, the Trojans had back-to-back possessions in which they didn't net a first down. Then Columbus High's Damian Moore intercepted Davis at midfield.
But New Hope's defense responded and delivered a critical three-and-out to turn the momentum.
New Hope capitalized on the shift by marching 82 yards on eight plays and scoring on a 25-yard field goal by Jerrod Bradley. The Trojans moved inside the Falcons' 10-yard line but had to settle for the field goal.
"We have all of the offensive pieces," New Hope coach Shawn Gregory said. "We just have to find consistency. The players are trying hard and they are doing what we ask them to do. We just have to get better at finishing. Whether it is a game or a drive, finishing is the key."
Taking the points proved the right move, as Darron Temple recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. This time, New Hope moved 56 yards on six plays to grab the lead.
Davis called his number on a 1-yard touchdown after hit Victor Deloach 39-yard pass to kick-start the drive.
The next fumble recovery was by C.J. Clay. This time, New Hope came away empty on the drive that later proved to be its undoing.
"Not being able to score touchdowns when we had our chances really hurt us," Davis said. "We did a lot of things well and we showed what we are capable of doing. Then we have a penalty or turnover. We have to cut down on those mistakes to have a chance. It hurts to lose a rivalry game, but we know how we close we are."
While New Hope was efficient in the passing game, the ground game was a different story. The Trojans averaged less than 1 yard per carry. Columbus opted to sell out to stop the run to see if New Hope could win the game in the air.
"We couldn't establish the run, which really hurt us," Gregory said. "Those guys were a lot bigger than us up front, as they had many 300-pound guys, which made it really tough to move them around, and they played great."
Despite the fact New Hope slipped to 0-2, Gregory, who played quarterback at New Hope High and is in his first year as the program's head coach, knows his team is close, especially after playing with a Class 6A playoff-caliber team.
"When you play a big 6A team like we did tonight, you have nothing to be ashamed of," Gregory said. "We came out of this thing not very banged up, so we're in good shape moving forward. We just have got to develop the mental part of finishing off the opponent at hand."