The Columbus football team’s regular season had its share of ups and downs, ending with an eye-opening loss to Killian.
But if the playoff version that showed up Thursday night at Tropical Park is more indicative of what they are capable of, things are looking up for the Explorers.
With its offense amassing 444 total yards and its defense totaling four sacks and an interception, Columbus dominated Dr. Krop from start to finish in a 49-9 rout in a Region 4-8A quarterfinal. The Lightning (5-6) was eliminated in the first round for the second consecutive season.
Columbus (7-4) advances to the second round for the second consecutive season, and will host district rival Coral Gables (4-7) next Friday in the semifinals at a site to be determined. Columbus beat Coral Gables 41-0 on October 20.
Columbus’ potent offensive output came in spite of senior running back Daryl Chestnut missing the game with a sprained ankle.
Junior Oshton Armstrong and senior Lorenzo Woodley kept the Explorers on point as each rushed for more than 100 yards.
Woodley led the effort with three touchdowns and 101 yards on 12 carries. Armstrong finished with one touchdown and 110 yards on 15 carries.
“The feeling from the Killian loss last week burned all week, and we just wanted to make a statement,” Woodley said. “I ran out there today with an attitude and show we are playoff-ready.”
Sophomore quarterback Tucker Beirne complemented the running game with one of his better performances of the season. Beirne completed 12 of 18 passes for 226 yards and threw three touchdown passes, including two to Jesus Wilson, who finished with four catches for 107 yards.
Gilbert Henric had a game-high six catches for 101 yards.
“This is a ticked off and inspired team right now,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “Last week poked the dog in the cage a little bit, and this is the reaction we wanted out of this team.”
It took Woodley three carries to cover 46 yards and score a touchdown on Columbus’ first drive.
The defense set the tone from there, constantly pressuring Krop quarterback Keon Roman and sacking him four times on the Lightning’s first two drives. Nick McBeath and Nick Garcia each had one.
Roman, Miami-Dade County’s leading passer among Class 8A-6A schools entering the game, was held to 8 of 16 completions for 101 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Plantation 29, American 8: American coach Corey Bell could only shake his head quietly from side to side as he slowly walked off the field at Traz Powell Stadium.
His Patriots team, coming off a second consecutive district championship, once again ran into a Broward juggernaut in the first round of the playoffs, which spelled an early exit for the second year in a row as the Colonels used a smothering defense to defeat American in Class 7A regional quarterfinal matchup. American was on the receiving end of a 50-14 rout by St. Thomas Aquanis in the first round last year.
“I think we run into a buzz saw out there [Thursday night],” said Bell, whose team closed out its season 6-4. “Give Plantation and their coach Steve Davis a lot of credit. They really came in here and took care of their business ... and we wish them well as they move on. Defensively they were really tough on us and we struggled to move the ball.”
Bell could only watch as the Plantation defense, led by linebacker Ray Ciervo who had close to a dozen tackles, dominated most of the night, holding the Patriots to 89 net rushing yards and 44 yards passing, 37 of those coming on the last play of the game.
The biggest play of the night came just before halftime. With the Patriots trailing just 8-0, Plantation was facing a fourth-and-12 at the Patriots 29 with just 27 seconds left in the half. That’s when quarterback Chris Lammons found Jewison Dawkins on a bubble screen over the middle that Dawkins took and turned into a touchdown pass to make it 16-0 at the half.
The only score for American came midway through the fourth quarter when, given a short field and aided by a pair of pass-interference penalties, the Patriots punched one in on quarterback Ed Crouch’s 1-yard quarterback sneak to make it 23-8 after the two-point conversion.
• Reagan 46, Mourning 6: Ronald Reagan running back Keenan Springer finished up his high school career in style at Reagan High School as the host Bison routed Mourning in the regular-season finale for both independent teams. The game was a makeup contest, originally scheduled during Hurricane Sandy week.
Already leading the county in rushing, Springer put his exclamation on the regular-season rushing title with 172 yards and five touchdowns to finish with exactly 1,500 yards as Reagan closed out its tremendous season at 9-1 while Mourning finished 5-5, also its best season ever.
“It feels great to have such a great season, not only my yards but to have us go 9-1 as well,” said Springer who will move to Hawaii next week as his mother, in the military, was recently transferred.
“There has been a lot of hard work that has gone on around here in the last few years to move this program where it is, and I’m proud to have been a part of that.”
“The amazing thing about Keenan is that it’s about so much more than the yards,” said Reagan coach John Lopez. “It’s been about the way he conducts himself off the field as well and the way he leads. He’s a special kid who has helped blaze the trail for the success of this program and he’ll be missed.”