September 8, 2018 8:10:06 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
A season ago, a matchup with Vicksburg was the best thing to happen to the Columbus High School football team.
This season, the Falcons hope that holds true again.
Columbus players and coaches were all fast forwarding to the week ahead after a 72-6 loss to No. 1 Starkville Friday night at Falcon Field.
Starkville won its fourth straight in the series by racking up 523 yards and building a 45-0 halftime lead.
"Some of the guys on the team were hesitant," Columbus senior linebacker Tidus Kirk said. "When you play the No. 1 team in the state, you can't be hesitant. You have to go out there and make plays. You have to do what you have the ability to do. Starkville is really good. They beat us soundly. We didn't help ourselves. It's frustrating to lose like that."
Starkville is considered the odds-on favorite to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A state championship after finishing second a season ago.
Columbus (0-3) knew it would needs its best effort. Some help from Starkville (4-0) would also be appreciated. Neither came true.
"Starkville is well-coached and they have athletes at every position the field," Columbus coach Eric Rice said. "You didn't want it to come to this. Now, the question is can you learn from this? I thought we competed and played hard and all that. We did not have the manpower to compete. I would think that is as well as they could play. It was a tough night in every phase of the game."
Columbus has opened the season with West Point, Noxubee County and Starkville. Each team played for an MHSAA North State championship a season ago.
When Rice accepted the job, he inherited this schedule and knew the challenge would be tough.
Columbus will be on a more-even playing field Friday night when it plays at Vicksburg (0-2). A year ago, Columbus won two games -- one was a 35-7 home win over Vicksburg.
Rice said he is not worried about his team losing confidence. Instead, he is worried about having confidence period.
"I am not sure we have the confidence we need to win a game," Rice said. "We need one good thing to happen. It might even be Monday in practice. As we told the team, our final eight games will not feature anyone as good as what we have just faced. Hopefully, that will instill some confidence. The effort is there. We actually had some success offensively in this game. There are some things there that we can put to use. Monday can't get here soon enough.
"We need to start a new week of practice with a new attitude. The schedule is something we can manage the rest of the way. The kids just have to believe that we can get there."
The Columbus touchdown Friday night came in the fourth quarter when Jaelan Craddieth hit Fred Harris on a 9-yard pass.
Against the state's best Front Four, Columbus ran for 105 yards. The Falcons threw an interception and lost two fumbles. Demario Martin led the Columbus defense with seven total tackles. Quin Malone had a fumble recovery.
Still, the Falcons' two-season losing steak now sits at nine games.
"It's all about Vicksburg now," Kirk said. "A year ago, we won that game here when we really needed a lift. It's just practice, work hard, get on a bus and go win a game. Not trying to make it sound too simple. We just have to forget about the first three games. It's up to the seniors to keep this thing together. The region games are ahead, so we got a lot of football left. We won't have another night like this."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.