It was nowhere near perfect, but Columbus remained so by defeating Belen Jesuit 21-7 in its nonconference rivalry game Friday night at Florida International University’s Ocean Bank Field.
In front of an estimated crowd of 10,000, the Explorers (5-0) beat the Wolverines (3-3) for the 11th consecutive time in the series between Miami-Dade’s all-boys’ private schools.
“This is a pitfall game for us,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “We’re in a deal where a lot of times the rankings and all that stuff is out the window. It’s a rival game and anything can happen in rival games. The same problem for us offensively is we’re having an ability to score in the red zone. We’re making too many mistakes in the red zone. Came out and got us again [Friday]. Again, we left points on the board. Turnovers also cost us, too.”
After a shanked punt, Columbus orchestrated an 11-play, 66-yard drive that culminated on senior quarterback Alejandro Ros’ 17-yard touchdown to senior wideout Daniel Courtney on third-and-8 with 53 seconds remaining in the first.
Following a three-and-out, the Explorers struck again on junior running back Christopher Henderson’s 74-yard touchdown run with 10:36 to play in the second quarter.
“I saw it open before the play and I read it and just hit it,” said Henderson, who recorded 119 total yards. “I thought it was a big game, great atmosphere. We got weapons all across the field. We show it when we play.”
Columbus extended its lead to 21 on the opening drive of the second half that took nearly six minutes off the clock on junior back Yael Gomez’s 1-yard touchdown run. Ros went 3 for 4, and freshman Darren Davis Jr. ran for 31 yards on the series. Ros finished 13 for 17 with 137 yards.
But the Explorers, last year’s state runner-up in Class 8A, also missed out on opportunities by leaving points on the field.
They committed 11 penalties for 120 yards and missed two field goals, though one got blocked from 52 yards out. In Wolverine territory with a minute to go before halftime, a bad handoff turned into a fumble — one of three in the game.
“This is one of those games again where because of the emotions … you have kids and you have emotional kids and dumb mistakes,” Merritt said. “We had too many penalties [Friday] that were because of that.”
Belen managed two first downs on its opening drive but finished with just four more over the next three-plus quarters. The offense collected 95 total yards and turned the ball over twice.
The Wolverines avoided the shutout when Columbus’ backup quarterback fumbled on a draw play with 22 seconds remaining. Belen took over from the 3-yard line, and backup quarterback Daniel Hondal, who replaced junior Lucas Pola in the third quarter, found senior wide receiver Richard Perez for a touchdown.
Columbus senior wideout Jerron Rollins, who is undecided on his choice of college, caught three passes for 57 yards.
With 7:30 left in the first quarter, Columbus junior defensive back Marlin Brooks was taken out on a stretcher because of a neck injury. He pumped his arm as he left the field with paramedics.
“We’re going to find out right now,” Merritt said of the player’s status after the game. “We’re in a hurry to go over and see him. I don’t know anything right now. I just know he was starting to move his arms in the ambulance, and we’re pretty concerned about him right now.”
COL - Courtney 17 fron Ros (Pastor kick)
COL - Henderson 74 run (Pastor kick)
COL - Gomez 1 run (Pastor kick)
BEL - Perez 3 from Hondal (Rice kick)
Rushing (att-yds) -- BEL: Robaina 2-(-8), Garcia 1-8, Pinto 5-19, Garcia 10-22, Estrada 6-26. COL: Gonzalez 1-(-1), Gomez 4-2, Leon 2-3, Ros 6-4, Garcia 2-5, Davis, Jr. 11-42, Henderson 5-90.
Passing (comp-att-int, yds)-- BEL: Hondal 1-4-0, 3, Pola 4-10-1, 25. COL: Hidalgo Jr. 1-1-0, 35, Ros 13-17-0, 134.
Receiving (rec-yds-TD) -- BEL: Garcia 3-14, Perez 2-14. COL: Davis, Jr. 1-(-3), Harrell 1-4, Zetino 1-11, Gonzalez-Brito 1-12, Henderson 2-29, Hidalgo Jr. 3-29, Courtney 2-30, Rollins 3-57.