With eighty seconds left in the game and his team trailing by one, Columbia City coach Brett Fox had a decision to make.
Do the Eagles lean on their run game that had torched Wayne all night or go vertical in hopes of winning the game?
It was a no-brainer.
Fox paid attention to the clock but also dialed up what had been working all night – even all season – in a multi-faceted rushing attack. Eight plays, all runs, culminated in a two-yard plunge by Josh Arntz with 12 seconds remaining as Columbia City survived at Wayne 41-36 to open sectional play.
It was an instant classic of a contest, with the Generals (2-8) having taken the lead by one on the possession before with a Christian Trimble to Deonte Williams touchdown followed by a Trimble to Harold Mack two-point conversion.
But Columbia City utilized the rush as it had all night, scoring the final points and ending up with 455 rushing yards.
“We were trying to call two plays at a time and told our guys if we could get outside to get outside,” Fox said about the final drive. “We did not want to give (Wayne) enough time to throw a couple Hail Marys.”
It was definitely a game that felt as if the final team with the ball was going to win. Columbia City trailed 14-0 to start the contest and found itself trailing 20-7 after the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter when Trimble hit Mack for a 79-yard touchdown.
But Columbia City scored the next 21 points to steal back momentum. The fourth quarter was a blow-for-blow brawl, with each squad seemingly putting itself in position to win with timely scores.
Wayne played arguably its best game in years, led by a pair of seniors.
Trimble finished 18-of-25 for 247 yards and two scores. The senior made every throw he needed to make, many in clutch situations. He was poised, confident and showed out in his final prep start.
So too did Lamarion Nelson. The workhorse back carried the ball 35 times for 189 yards and a pair of scores. Columbia City frequently did not have an answer for Nelson, who even in traffic was able to accumulate yards, wiggling his way free or finding an extra gear to pick up an extra yard or two.
Friday was very a heavyweight bout, with the Northeast Eight champions taking on a two-win team that Fox worried his team could look past.
Columbia City did not look past the Generals, more so Wayne came to play and showed out for a full four quarters.
But in the end it was the Eagles, who overcame a fourth-quarter deficit in dramatic fashion in Week 9 when it knocked off Norwell on the road to win the conference. The Generals defense was drained, with the lack of significant subs coupled with Columbia City’s hurry-up offense meaning not much in the way of rest for the dudes in the trenches. It showed as the game progressed with the Eagles able to get more and more of a push up front and open holes for the likes of Ethan Sievers (22 carries, 183 yards, three TDs), Josh Arntz (19-136-2) and others.
Columbia City moves on and will face DeKalb next week at home. The Barons upset New Haven 17-14 on Friday.
The Eagles beat DeKalb 42-7 in Week 5.
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