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COLUMBIA CITY — The excitement is back in the air at Columbia City on Friday night and it’s just the start.
Three games into the 2010 regular season, the Eagles are in the midst of their best start in more than a decade. Not since 1997 has a team at Columbia City started the season 3-0.
That was until Friday night.
Opening the Northeast Hoosier Conference schedule at home, Columbia City found itself in a 14-point hole at halftime. Behind a swarming defense, Columbia City scored 21 unanswered points in a second-half rally to win over the Braves, 21-14.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Columbia City head coach Randy Hudgins. “This is a town that yearns for a great football team and we’ve got a lot of ingredients in place.”
The story might have come with the offense that put the 21 points up on the scoreboard in the second half. However, the hidden gem was the defense that went from giving up 14 first-half points to shutting down a Bellmont offense centered around the ground game.
“We were just playing with heart and playing how we know we can,” said senior linebacker Cory Clifford. “We held them just before halftime and we carried that momentum over.”
With 1:41 left in the first half, Columbia City’s defense stuffed Bellmont’s Daniel Meyer on a fourth and two.
At the start, it looked as if the Bellmont rushing game had a variety of ways to run on the Eagles with Meyer teaming up with quarterback Forrest Fullenkamp to score on the first possession of the game.
The two-headed ground game became one with Fullenkamp going out for the rest of the game in the second quarter. The train continued on for Bellmont, however, as Meyer carried the Braves' load with his second touchdown in the game.
It’d be the last time Bellmont saw the end zone, however.
“Once our team gets a big play, our guys start to believe,” Hudgins said. “Once they feel momentum is on their side they’re going to scratch and claw. We just needed to get their attention and telling them that wasn’t the Columbia City team in the first half that we needed to show to everyone.”
As the Eagle defense turned up the pressure, the door opened for quarterback Logan Rehrer and the City offense in the third quarter.
A 24-yard punt return by Jared Murphy put Columbia City on Bellmont's side of the field for its first drive.
Following a 100-yard plus performance at Whitko last week, junior Jacob Johnson was thrown into the mix gaining 46 of his 57 receiving yards in the third quarter.
Johnson added 65 yards on the ground to that total setting up two QB runs up the middle by Rehrer to tie the game at 14-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We told our guys at halftime it was gut check time,” Hudgins noted. “We had adversity staring us in the face. With all the hard work we’ve put in, it comes through in the team chemistry we’ve developed in refusing lose and finding a way to win.”
Columbia City found a way to win with 3:38 left in the fourth quarter after Bellmont missed its chance late in the third quarter on a 25-yard field goal that went wide.
After the Columbia City defense got into the Bellmont backfield forcing a punt, the Eagles went on one of their longest drives of the game spanning more than six minutes.
A 16-yard pass from Rehrer to Murphy jump-started the drive that used the ground game of Johnson and Dylan Miller to inch down the field.
At the goal line, Miller’s number was called to finish off the game-winning drive plunging four yards for the TD.
“Even if it doesn’t look pretty we find a way to win,” Hudgins said. “We have the kids that never give up and we showed that tonight.”
A defense led by Clifford’s team-best seven solo tackles again stuffed Bellmont on a fourth and two on the Braves end of the field.
Coming full circle, Columbia City, which had been intercepted in the first half, returned the favor with a pick of its own from Conner Slavich to end the game.