September 18, 2013 10:13:43 PM
The banging of metal on metal in the weight room was a fitting backdrop for Tony Stanford as he talked about perhaps his biggest victory in his time as Columbus High School's football coach.
Columbus 41, West Point 14.
If you were one of the high school football fans who saw the score on Twitter or heard it on a scoreboard show driving home from your game, you have to admit you were surprised, not that the Falcons beat the Green Wave, but that they beat them by 27 points in West Point.
Just listen for a moment, though, and the banging of the offensive players in the weight room tells you all you need to know. When Stanford first arrived in Columbus as an assistant coach for Bubba Davis, the coaching staff focused on getting the Falcons stronger so they could be more physical. Stanford continued that mind-set when he took over for Davis prior to the 2010 season. The Falcons have built on that foundation each season and, in turn, have developed a reputation for being a hard-hitting, physical team.
On Friday, they proved it with an exclamation point.
"It all comes down to our kids' ability to play hard," Stanford said. "We challenged them all week that West Point is supposed to be the most physical team around here and we want to b more physical. We have kind of built our program around we want to be one of the most physical teams around. The kids took the challenge and played hard."
With Damian Moore leading the defense and Kendrick Conner fueling the offense, the Falcons had all of the answers against West Point. Columbus (2-1) hopes to extend its winning streak to three at 7 p.m. Friday when it faces another kind of challenge against Class 3A favorite Louisville.
While West Point favors a straight-ahead running game that prefers to smack opponents in the face, Louisville will rely on senior quarterback Wyatt Roberts, a Jacksonville State commitment, to lead an up-tempo offense that will pitch the football all over the field.
Against the Green Wave, the Falcons crowded the line of scrimmage to try to prevent senior running back Aeris Williams, a Mississippi State commitment, from getting outside or running up inside of the defensive line. He said the key to stopping Williams was not allowing him to break past the first line of defense and to deny him space to create plays.
Stanford said the Falcons had two days of hard, physical practices, which made him believe the team would be ready come game night.
"Our kids have bought into believing the weight room has made us better and we're getting real physical, and people don't like to play us because we are so physical," Stanford said. "I think it is true. We have gotten to where we can stand in there with West Point and South Panola and play as physical as they do. I think we have proven that the last couple of years. What gives us the most trouble is those spread-out teams."
Against the Wildcats, the Falcons likely will try to use their physicality up front to get pressure on Roberts so he doesn't have time to use his array of weapons.
If Columbus can't use its strength to control Roberts and Louisville, it could be a long evening. But Stanford feels his players will be up for a new and different challenge Friday and in the weeks to come when they begin region play.
"I think they feel they did something people didn't think they could do," Stanford said. "They met the challenge, and now they have to do it week in and week out. That is the challenge. You have 15-, 16, 17-year-old young men. Their mind changes from week to week. They have to learn to control their thinking and be ready for a challenge every week. They can't come back flat after playing a real good ballgame. That will be the biggest problem this week. Are they going to show up or are they going to come out flat?"
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.