Looking for a much-wanted rematch with Coral Gables, the Columbus Explorers (10-1) did not take their eye off the ball on Friday night as they traveled to Milander Stadium and rolled to an easy 35-13 victory over American (6-5) in a Class 8A regional quarterfinal matchup.
Columbus (10-1) moves on to next week’s regional semifinal round where it will take on Coral Gables, which it lost to two weeks ago in a district showdown, at Tropical Park Stadium on Thursday night.
But this time, the Explorers will have their starting quarterback back in the lineup as Alex Ros, a month after sustaining a hairline fracture in his collarbone, made a triumphant return to the lineup.
Ros completed 9-of-13 passes for 109 yards and had a 30-yard scoring strike to Jerron Rollins just before halftime. Ros played just one series in the second half before taking the rest of the night off with his team enjoying a 29-0 advantage.
After a nondescript first quarter in which neither team moved the ball very effectively, the Explorers broke the ice when Ros led them on a eight-play, 74-yard drive. But Ros wasn’t on the field when they scored. Orlando Hidalgo took the snap from the Wildcat formation and bolted 23 yards for score. When American was called twice for offsides putting the ball inside the one, Merrit went ahead and went for two and got it to go up 8-0.
The Explorers then took complete control of the game just before halftime when they scored a pair of touchdowns in less than 30 seconds.
After Ros found Jerron Rollins for a 30-yard scoring pass with 1:09 left, the Patriots allowed the ensuing kickoff to bounce around without anyone getting to the ball. Columbus recovered at the 20 and Darren Davis Jr. scored on the very next play to make it 22-0 at the half.
The game was delayed for more than 30 minutes with 8:11 left when American defensive lineman Dennis Law disappeared into a pile on a tackle and didn’t get up.
He was mobilized while Fire Rescue was called where he was transported to Palmetto General Hospital.
Law had full movement of all of his extremities and said he blacked out when he collided with a Columbus player.