October 31, 2013 9:45:56 PM
The Columbus High School football team is nearly out of opportunities.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Columbus needs two victories to secure the fourth and final playoff spot out of Class 6A, Region 2. The first step in the two-part process will come at 7 tonight when Columbus (4-5, 2-3 region) travels to Jackson to take on Murrah (4-6, 2-3).
Columbus is coming off a 13-0 loss at Madison Central in which its defense played another strong game. Unfortunately for the Falcons, familiar problems and inconsistencies reared their head and dropped the team into a must-win situation.
Even though Columbus needs to win tonight and next week against Warren Central, coach Tony Stanford likes his team's chances if it can get a few breaks and make things happen on offense.
"One man ain't going to do the job," Stanford said. "It is going to take a team effort. The offensive line hasn't played as well as we thought they would have played. They need to step it up a couple of notches the next two weeks if we want to make the playoffs. If they do that, we have an opportunity. If they don't, we're going to be sitting at the house in two weeks."
Columbus had a chance to get back into the game against Madison Central, but quarterback Trace Lee overthrew wide receiver Alex Lipscomb in the end zone. Earlier in the game, a fumble on an option after going without a miscue on the play in practice helped set up Madison Central's only touchdown.
Stanford said the Falcons did a good job of moving the football between the 20- and 30-yard lines. For some reason, he said the offense hasn't been able to convert in the red zone.
A prime example came in the fourth quarter when the Falcons ran a reverse and moved the football down around the 20, but a holding penalty erased the gain.
"If you're going to be a good team, you don't make mistakes," Stanford said. "We have been a mistake-prone offense all year. If you give us a chance, we're going to make a mistake."
Despite the mistakes, Columbus still has a chance, although he anticipates a tough matchup tonight against Murrah, a team he feels has even more talent than Madison Central. His hope tonight is his players take confidence from playing as well as they did against Madison Central, who likely will be the No. 2 seed out of the district.
"I am going to be disappointed if we don't play well the next two weeks because our kids understand what's on the line," Stanford said. "If they don't play well, it doesn't mean a lot to them. I hate to be that way, but that's the way it is. As a coaching staff, we can only do so much. We try to prepare them and get them ready. We make mistakes just like they make mistakes. I am not trying to blame it on 15- or 16-year-old kids, but sooner or later you have to decide how well you want to play and how bad you want to make the playoffs.
"I really thought we played as a unit last week because we wanted to be in the playoffs. It is just we fell short. This week, can we do it? We'll see."
Stanford said Columbus had good days of practice Monday and Wednesday. He also has said during the season that it is extremely difficult to tell if that is going to carry over to the game. He said he didn't see a lack of effort on the practice field, and hopes the Falcons will have a big ballgame to build momentum for the final week of the regular season.
"I think our kids will show up and will play hard," Stanford said. "Are we good enough? We'll find out."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
1. Starkville High introduces Jones as its new football coach HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Coaches confident about Jones at Starkville HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. EMCC DL enrolls at MSU COLLEGE SPORTS
4. No. 4 MSU not content to be 19-0 COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Third quarter saves No. 4 MSU women COLLEGE SPORTS