When you have lost 11 in a row to your bitter archrival, giving up a 98-yard return for a touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff is not the way you want to start.
But that’s exactly what happened to Belen Jesuit on Saturday night when Columbus’ Joshua Jobe bolted 98 yards for a score on the game’s opening play and paved the way for the Explorers’ 24-10 victory over Belen in front of a capacity standing-room-only crowd of more than 6,000 at Tropical Park.
And with that, Columbus (3-2) extended its win streak over Belen (2-2) to an even dozen with the series having started in 2005.
“A little bit of a grind for us offensively [Saturday night], and we’re definitely going to have to get better on that side of the ball,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “But to win 12 in row in a great rivalry like this is a great credit to the kids and my coaching staff.”
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Columbus led 10-0 at halftime, but Belen came out and made the Explorers’ faithful awfully nervous in the third quarter.
The Wolverines’ biggest play of the night, a 61-yard shovel pass from Lucas Pola to Don Chaney Jr., set Belen up at the Columbus 9-yard line. But a great defensive play on third-and-goal by Jobe, who saved a touchdown with an open-field tackle, forced the Wolverines to settle for Javan Rice’s 20-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 5:40 left in the third.
Three plays into the Explorers’ next drive, a fumbled pitch led to a Stefano Santamaria recovery at the Columbus 19, sending Belen fans into a frenzy. But the excitement was short-lived. Just two plays later, Pola underthrew his receiver, and Shawn McReynolds picked it off.
Columbus then put together a seven-play drive, and freshman Henry Parrish scored from 18 yards out to make it 17-3 with 1:37 left in the third. A huge penalty by Belen on a late hit out of bounds that otherwise would have forced a punt kept the drive alive.
The Explorers then slam dunked the game when, on third-and-8 from his own 11, quarterback Marcelo Rodriguez found Parrish open in the left flat. Parrish then juked two Belen defenders and was off to the races, completing an 89-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 4:38 left.
Belen scored with just 17 seconds left when Pola found Javier Hernandez for a 4-yard touchdown.
“My quarterback made a good throw, I saw some daylight and I just took off,” Parrish said of his long touchdown pass. “This was big for us [Saturday night]. We wanted to come out here and make it 12 in a row and did what we needed to do.”
Following Jobe’s opening score, the Wolverines put together their best drive of the first half, marching from their own 35 to the Columbus 24. But two penalties pushed them back, and they wound up with a long 49-yard field goal ny Javan Rice.
But Trajan Bandy blocked it and Shawn McReynolds scooped it up and rambled 20 yards, setting the Explorers up at the Belen 45. Six plays later, David Contreras nailed a 41-yard field goal down the middle to make it 10-0.
Columbus put one other first-half drive together and got close to the Belen red zone but, on fourth-and-1 at the 20, the Wolverines defense, led by Jordan Galvez, stuffed Yael Gomez for no gain.
“Returning that kick was big for us,” Jobe said of his opening kickoff heroics. “I saw a little sliver of daylight and just took off. To do something like that to your opponent right out of the gate in such a big game gives you a big advantage.”