By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Columbus High’s mantra of “pounding” through practices the first couple days of game weeks translated to the field in their Division 1-6A opener against Tupelo.
The Falcons used the ground game to pound out yardage before turning to the air to move the chains in their 14-0 win at Golden Wave Stadium on Friday night.
“We work hard Monday and Tuesday and we just hit each other and hit each other,” Columbus quarterback Trace Lee said. “Coach (Tony Stanford) wants to instill in us the will to fight and the will to win and he’s done a great job.”
A pattern developed in the opening half for the Falcons of running on first and second downs and then throwing the ball to get the remaining yardage for a new set of downs.
After halftime Columbus turned primarily to the ground in an attempt to wear Tupelo down. Lee attempted only four passes after halftime but still finished with 201 yards.
“We thought we were in better shape than them and we knew we could run the ball,” said Lee, the brother of former ICC and Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee.
Kendrick Conner toted the ball the majority of the time for the Falcons, gaining 99 yards on 27 carries.
Columbus (4-1, 1-0) scored on a nice 18-yard connection from Lee to a diving Dalon Moore just before the end of the first quarter.
‘We had a chance’
From that point, the game turned into a defensive struggle. Tupelo continued to make big plays when needed, including a 4th-and-goal stop on the 1-yard line, while Columbus held the Wave to 83 first-half yards.
“They played outstanding, but as a football team we have to make a few more plays,” said Golden Wave coach David Bradberry. “We had a chance offensively, defensively, in the kicking game – the whole shooting match.”
A blocked punt in the fourth quarter by Jeremiah Dent gave Tupelo (2-3, 0-1) prime field position to try and tie the game.
The Wave moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but Thomas Harris’s fourth down completion to Reed Taylor came up two yards short of earning a fresh set of downs to return possession to the Falcons.
Tupelo got the ball back with 2:48 to play, but Quan Latham picked Harris on the first play of the drive to set up a touchdown run by Keith Brooks with under a minute left to play that sealed the victory.