A big night from running back Henry Parrish Jr. helped the Columbus Explorers top defending state 6A champion Northwestern 23-14 on Friday night at Tropical Park
A Columbus interception by Branden Coleman set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Parrish Jr. to close out scoring with 2:43 left to play. Parrish Jr. finished with 214 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“I believed in my offensive line, followed my fullback and hit it,” Parrish Jr. said of his performance. “We worked on it all week and we knew we’d come out with a W.”
Columbus scored on its first offensive play of the game when Parrish Jr. cut back at the line, found a crease and broke free for a 91-yard touchdown run.
Northwestern replied with its own long touchdown two plays later when Andre Stringfield took a short pass from Isiah Velez in for a 63-yard score.
A 36-yard field goal by Nicolas Maza put the Explorers ahead 10-7 as time expired in the first quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Xzavier Henderson beat two Bulls defenders on a deep jump ball and then broke their tackle attempts at the ten yard line to score on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Brandon McDuffey. Columbus led 16-7 at halftime. Henderson had two catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Velez led the Bulls (1-1) with 113 passing yards and 28 rushing yards and one touchdown pass.
Northwestern closed the gap with a big second-half defensive touchdown. Sam Brooks had a sack and forced a fumble that was recovered and taken 37 yards by Calijah Kancy to cut Columbus’ lead to 16-14 with 9:44 left to play.
“That was tough for us, but our defense held a state championship team to seven points,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said.
Both teams entered the game coming off an impressive win in Week 1. The Bulls defeated host Mirimar 30-12. The Explorers defeated Mater 35-0.
Northwestern will face South Dade next week. Columbus will face Carol City next week.