MIAMI, Fla. — The Columbus Explorers (1-2) faced off against the Southridge Spartans (2-0) in what was a clash of the Class 8A titans. The Spartans got the best of the Explorers in this one as they pulled off the 26-15 victory.

THE INFO:  The Southridge Spartans started off the game with three straight bubble screens so when they went for it on the fourth straight play, defensive back Trajan Bandy, cut off the screen and took it back 55 yards to the house.

Late in the first quarter, quarterback Marcelo Rodriguez took a hard hit on third down and he limped off the field. He stayed out of the game until late in the second quarter.

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In the span of two minutes, the whole momentum of the game switched as Southridge scored on a 1-yard rush by tight end Kemore Gamble. A minute later, Columbus botched a snap and the punter could not get the ball in time as Southridge scooped it up and scored to take a 13-7 lead into the half.

After a quick three and out by the Explorers to begin the second half, Coach Merritt made the tough decision to bench Rodriguez for the rest of the game and put in backup Nicholas Gonzalez.

As Southridge made their way down the field with ease as their passing game could not be stopped. They eventually scored on a 15-yard TD connection between quarterback Michael Cox Jr. and Gamble.

The backup, Gonzalez had his first drive of the second half and it was not pretty as the Southridge defense was showing no mercy and constantly causing havoc in the backfield. The Explorers were forced to punt the ball and that is where Mark Pope came in as he returned the punt for a 61-yard touchdown to increase the Spartans lead to 26-7.

Late in the third quarter, it seemed Gonzalez and the Explorers offense were able to lead the way for a comeback as they made their way down the field and capped off the drive with CJ Henderson catching a five-yard touchdown pass from Gonzalez to cut the deficit to 11.

The very next drive, the Explorers defense stopped the Spartans from even moving a yard down the field and eventually blocked the punt. Now Gonzalez and the Explorers were in great field position to put the Explorers back in the game but when they ran a halfback screen, DE James Head Jr made the great read to pick it off and seal the win for the Spartans.

KEY PLAY OF THE GAME: Southridge defensive back James Head Jr. made the play of the game by picking off Gonzalez to close off any attempt of a Columbus comeback.

STAR OF THE GAME: Tight end Kemore Gamble had 3 receptions for 21 yards and a one-yard rush with a total of two touchdowns. Even though his stats are not amazing, he was one of the biggest reasons why Southridge was able to pull away a victory from the Explorers.

DID YOU KNOW: This game featured over 30 D1 prospects and six University of Miami commits.

WHAT’S NEXT: Southridge heads over to Traz Powell Stadium next week to face off against Booker T. Washington on Fri, Sept 16. at 7:30 p.m. Columbus looks to return to their winning ways as they go on the road to play Miami High at Curtis Park next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.