COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Wrapping up arguably the toughest three-game stretch of its regular season schedule, the Moore County High School football team fell at Columbia Academy 42-28 Friday night. The loss was the third straight to open the season for the Raiders.
In Columbia, the host Bulldogs (1-0 overall, 1-0 Region 4-1A) flexed their muscles in the first half as they built a 35-7 lead. Columbia Academy went ahead 42-7 midway through the third quarter before Moore County mounted a late rally with three touchdowns in the game’s final six minutes.
Columbia Academy scored on four of its first five possessions, including back-to-back touchdowns after Moore County (0-3, 0-1) cut a 14-0 lead in half early in the second quarter.
The Raiders had trouble with the Bulldogs’ speed, especially senior running back Logan Neal, who carried the ball just 10 times en route to 154 yards and four touchdowns.
“They have great speed. That’s a great football team,” said first-year Moore County head coach Jason Dobbs. “They ran the same plays, just a few different ways … different (directions). They ran a couple of plays that we hadn’t seen.”
Attacking the corners, Columbia Academy’s backs used their speed to get to the edge of the Raiders’ defense. That allowed Neal to get yardage in chunks. He had four runs of 18 yards or more, including a pair of 45-yard touchdown runs.
It was teammate Timmy Riley, however, who put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first. Riley scored just two minutes into the contest on a 16-yard run. Drew Logsdon booted the first of his six PATs and the hosts led 7-0. The five-play, 69-yard scoring drive was set up by a 37-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Dylan Johnson to Ben Thompson on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage.
Neal’s first TD came on a 14-yard run with 3:09 left in the opening quarter.
The Raiders managed to cut the lead in half thanks to a 30-yard run by MCHS junior Coy Cashion. Cashion hit the left side, slipped a tackle and raced in for the score, capping a 10-play, 69-yard drive for the Raiders.
Despite the three touchdowns late in the game, the scoring drive in the second quarter was perhaps Moore County’s most impressive drive of the night. The Raiders moved the ball with a mixture of pass and run as five different players touched the ball.
The Raiders got short runs from Holt and Cashion, as well as a 5-yard run from Dylan Vasser and two completions from quarterback Schuller — one to Holt and one to Austin Waters. Collecting three first downs along the way, MCHS moved the ball well.
But after seeing the lead cut in half, Columbia Academy’s defense stiffened and its offense found a different gear.
Neal helped the Bulldogs answer when he scored on a 45-yard run at the 8:21 mark of the second quarter. Tre Davidson added a 4-yard touchdown run three minutes later and just two plays after the Bulldogs picked off a Schuller pass deep in Moore County territory, Neal put the hosts ahead 35-7 when he scored on an 18-yard run with 1:01 left in the half.
Columbia Academy stretched the lead to 42-7 midway through the third on another 45-yard run by Neal, his fourth score of the contest. The 35-point lead marked the beginning of the continuously running clock and sped the third quarter along.
The Raiders managed a moderate rally late in the fourth quarter. A 15-play drive covering 70 yards ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Holt at the 5:11 mark of the fourth. Schuller ran for 56 yards during the drive and also connected on a 14-yard pass to Cashion. The Raiders took advantage of a roughing the passing penalty on fourth-and-goal and finally punched the ball into the end zone.
After holding the Bulldogs to three-and-out, the Raiders scored again with 1:23 remaining. Schuller broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run and Cashion kicked the PAT.
On the ensuing kickoff, Moore County recovered a Columbia Academy fumble. Three plays later the Raiders scored again, pulling to within 14 points with 28 seconds left in the contest thanks to a 2-yard score by Holt.
“We never quit. We fought for four quarters,” said Dobbs. “It just shows the resiliency of our kids. I tell them all the time, ‘that play’s over … make them snap it again’ and maybe sometime sooner or later it will fall in our favor.”
***Notes: Thanks in part to the running clock, Columbia Academy only ran 13 plays in the second half. Much of the damage was done, however, as the Bulldogs had 142 yards rushing in the first half. They finished with 210 on the ground, including 154 yards by Neal. Johnson went 5-of-10 for 78 yards and an interception through the air. … The early part of Moore County’s 2016 schedule was top-heavy, with Cascade, Forrest and Columbia Academy staring at the Raiders right out of the gate. “Without a doubt,” said Dobbs. “Two of those teams will probably be 3A or 4A next year and (Columbia Academy) is returning nine of 11 starters on offense from a (Class A state) semifinal team that went 11-2 last year.” CA opened the season ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press Class 1A poll. They were ranked No. 9 again this week. Dobbs said he was surprised the Bulldogs weren’t higher up the list. “I’m very surprised. They lost their fullback and the big receiver and they have a quarterback who threw for 3,000 yards last year.” … For the first time this season, MCHS quarterback Matthew Schuller was able to stretch his legs a bit. He had 14 carries for 139 yards and a TD. He had runs of 43, 39 and 30 yards. “That’s the first time we’d ran the option,” added Dobbs. “The second half tonight is the first time we’d ran that. Now every team in the region will know (Schuller) can run the ball and read the option.” … Holt had 13 carries for 55 yards and Cashion had 55 yards on 10 totes. Schuller completed three passes, one each to Holt, Cashion and Austin Waters. … Moore County goes to Cornersville (1-2, 1-0) this week. Cornersville beat Grace Christian-Franklin 35-28 on Friday night.
—ROBERT HOLMAN, Publisher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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