GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It was opening night for both Columbia (1-0), ranked No. 2 in Class 7A by FloridaHSFootball.com, and Class 6A Gainesville (0-1) as both met for the 60th time since 1912. However, it was not anywhere near a perfect game for either team that saw more penalty yards than what could be counted by the media inside the pressbox.
THE BIG PLAYS: The Tigers received the ball to get things going, but between both teams, they couldn’t find their groove on the first two drives of the game with Columbia making a gutsy call go for it early on fourth down, while Gainesville went three-and-out to start the game.
However, it appeared that Gainesville was going to get the chance to draw first blood in the game after Jawan Lee intercept a Davin Schuck pass at the Tigers own 44-yard line that was returned to the Columbia 9-yard line with 6:41 left in the first quarter.
But Columbia had other plans for the Purple Hurricanes.
After four plays that also included two penalties, the Tigers defense snuffed out the Hurricanes inside sneak at the 1-yard forcing the Purple Hurricanes back two yards before the Tigers made the final stop to get the ball back with 4:27 left in the first quarter.
With the ball back Columbia made good on putting something into the momentum found when the team drove 98 yards in 10 plays with a huge 68-yard pass from Schuck to Nathan Maxwell, that setup Shuck’s two-yard touchdown run with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.
Gainesville answered back though quickly at the start of the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Luke Matthews, in his first start on varsity, found Isaiah Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown after several penalties including a pass interference call on Columbia put the Purple Hurricanes in the red zone.
On the next drive, though, things looked like they were about to unravel on Columbia after a Gainesville defender found the ball and picked off on a tipped pass around midfield. However, the Tigers force the Purple Hurricanes into a quick three-and-out.
With the first half approaching a close, Gainesville was forced to punt once again with 1:36 left. However, a bad snap allowed Columbia to block the punt and recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown to take a 14-6 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, the teams held on to the ball with Columbia holding on to the ball for a 16-play drive that didn’t warrant in any points.
Midway through the fourth quarter, things started to look interesting as Gainesville made some moves with the ball along with some help from Columbia on penalties when Matthews found Isaac Meacham from 33 yards to bring the score to 14-12 with 8:30 left in the game. However, the 2-point conversion was no good when it fell short of the end zone.
Columbia got the ball back and got down inside the 30, where the Hunter Houston eventually kicked a 37-yard field goal to put the Tiger up 17-12 with 5:03 left.
Gainesville’s attempt though at a comeback was cut short at the end after some penalties and being backed and forced into a go-for-it-all situation failed with 1:35 left allowing the Tigers to run the clock out to escape with the win.
KEY PLAYS OF THE GAME: The key plays came when Columbia kicked a 37-yard FG to go up by five on Gainesville with just over five minutes left in the game as well as a late stand by the defense combined with some Gainesville penalties to seal the deal for the Tigers.
STAR OF THE GAME: In a backup role at running back, Columbia’s Teon Dollar had a solid night carrying the ball rushing for 129 yards unofficially despite not scoring any touchdowns that helping ease the Tigers passing game some on the night.
DID YOU KNOW: Davin Schuck wears the No. 33 jersey with pride which has been a number that has long been held sacred in the Columbia Tigers football family. No. 33 which used to be worn by Jeff Buiey who was a star for the Tigers in the early to mid-1980’s. Buiey was killed in a car accident during while attending Bethune-Cookman and the number was pulled out of the jersey rotation for nearly three decades but has been in use since Schuck was moved up to varsity a couple of years ago.
WHAT’S NEXT: Columbia returns home next Friday night, Sept. 2, to host Georgia powerhouse Camden County with the kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. ET Gainesville will start a three-week stand on the road with a trip to Class 7A Jacksonville First Coast on the slate for next Friday, which will kick off at 7:00 p.m. ET