By Maurice Patton
WINCHESTER – Jason Hoath’s take on Friday night’s contest was succinct.
“Columbia beat Columbia,” the Lions’ fifth-year coach said after the 15-11 Region 5-5A defeat at the hands of host Franklin County.
Not to take anything away from the Rebels, who earned their second straight win after four consecutive losses to open the season, but Columbia Central (4-3, 1-2) turned the ball over on three of its four first-half offensive possessions, punted on fourth down-and-42 on the other – and only trailed 7-0 at intermission.
But the turnovers and five penalties, one of which negated a 62-yard Justin Buchmann touchdown midway through the opening quarter, combined with other lapses to leave the Lions clinging to faint playoff hopes with three regular-season games remaining.
“If we’d have won this game, we’d have put ourselves in a really good position,” Hoath said. “But we didn’t, and we’ve got to scratch and claw our way out of it.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, and we tried to dig out of it in the second half but we couldn’t do it. We came out in the second half and played better, took better care of the ball. We were more in tune with the game. (But) penalties are killing us. It’s something we’ve got to improve on moving forward if we want to have a chance.”
A pair of Brady McCanless interceptions sandwiched that ill-fated possession that ended with a punt on fourth-and-42 from the Lions’ 6-yard line. That drive started at the 38, saw a delay-of-game flag and a Christian Biggers 5-yard run before Buchmann swept the right side and went up the home sideline to the end zone – only to have it brought back for a holding call.
From there, a McCanless sack on second-and-22 lost 18 yards, Biggers was smothered in the backfield for a loss of two and Steven Kinnard’s punt gave the hosts possession at the Lions’ 34.
Three plays later, Franklin County led 7-0 on a Keandre Johnson 15-yard run.
“I think we thought we were going to run over them. That wasn’t the case,” senior linebacker Shane Cobb said. “We’ve got to play together and stop thinking about ourselves. We’ve got to start playing mistake-free football.”
Trailing by a touchdown, Central took the ensuing kickoff and moved from its own 35 to the red zone – converting fourth-and-2 on an Antwan Moore 2-yard run – before McCanless rolled to his left, threw to the left sideline and was picked off early in the second period.
Still, the Lions stayed in striking distance and had a promising drive near halftime. On fourth-and-15 at the Franklin County 35, McCanless and Kinnard hooked up for a catch-and-run that Kinnard took inside the 5 before fumbling as he fought toward the goal line.
“Plays like that are going to happen,” Hoath said. “That wasn’t the defining point of the game.
“We put ourselves in a tough position with our mistakes.”
Cobb made the Central defensive play of the game early in the third quarter, snaring a Johnson screen pass at the hosts’ 35 and returning it to the 7 to set up a Buchmann 3-yard scoring run. After a pair of offsides penalties, the Lions chose to go for a two-point conversion with Buchmann doing the honors.
Franklin County answered with a 43-yard Manny Scott kickoff return and a five-play, 46-yard scoring drive capped by a Johnson 26-yard pass to Marquice Toliver. From extra-point formation, the Rebels threw for the two-pointer and a 15-8 lead that held up.
“Our defense really showed out tonight,” first-year Franklin County coach Justin Cunningham said. “I thought we finally got to where we were controlling the line of scrimmage. In all phases of the game we executed. I can’t say enough about how our defense played.”
Central drove into or near the red zone twice more, settling once for a 36-yard Max Patton field goal and coming up short on fourth-and-4 on a last-gasp comeback attempt.
“I think we kind of underestimated them coming in,” Kinnard said. “We could have played a little harder.”
The Lions are idle for fall break, before playing Oct. 16 at Page.
“We’ve just got to focus on our next game. That’s all that really matters,” Hoath said. “We’ve got the ‘bye’ week, and then we’ve got Page.”
Franklin Co. 15, Columbia Central 11
at Franklin County H.S.
C 0 0 11 0 — 11
F 7 0 8 0 — 15
|F — Keandre Johnson 15 run (4:27), Rylan Banks kick|
|C — Justin Buchmann 3 run (8:44), Buchmann run|
|F — Marquice Toliver 26 pass from Johnson (5:54), Dakota Waggoner pass from Anthony Seno|
|C — Max Patton 36 field goal (2:38)|
Columbia Central – Justin Buchmann 12-43, Christian Biggers 16-72, Brady McCanless 5-(-8), Antwan Moore 2-6
Franklin Co. – Manny Scott 6-53, Dakota Waggoner 15-58, Keandre Johnson 10-71, Dendre Tate 7-48
Columbia Central – Brady McCanless 10-22-2, 85
Franklin Co. – Keandre Johnson 5-13-1, 49
Columbia Central – Adrien Hidalgo 3-8, Justin Buchmann 2-3, Steven Kinnard 4-68, Antwan Moore 1-6
Franklin Co. – Marquice Toliver 3-38, Shawn Holman 1-5, Dakota Waggoner 1-6