Title rematch gives City biggest test of season
Senior wide receiver Thomas De La Cruz stiff arms Angola defender Riley Zimmer in Columbia Cityâ€™s sectional semifinal win over the Hornets 41-27. De La Cruz led the Eagles to its second consecutive sectional title game with two touchdowns against Angola. Post & Mail photo / Mark Parker
So far, the Columbia City football team has passed nearly every test that has stood in front of them.
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New Haven, check. East Noble, got ’em. NHC championship, crowned. Return to the class 4A sectional championship, there.
Back where they stood a season ago, the Eagles get a rematch at home Friday night against the team that ended their 2009 season in Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (10-0).
“Obviously we’re going to have to play four solid quarters on offense and defense,” Columbia City head coach Randy Hudgins said. “But I also see opportunities for us to make some big plays on Friday night as well, if we take advantage of them.”
Facing the four-time defending sectional and regional champion Saints is never an easy task. It’s one that Columbia City will take on for five consecutive seasons Friday.
For a second straight year, the Eagles square off against Dwenger in the sectional championship.
In 2009, the Saints were in the midst of a six-game streak of defensive shutouts with Columbia City being the last 56-0.
A different Bishop Dwenger team comes in having surrendered 42 points to East Noble in the semifinal round. The result of the Knights contest against the Saints gives Hudgins and the Eagles confidence that they can do the same.
“East Noble was able to throw the ball against them (Dwenger),” Hudgins noted. “Seemingly, that’s good for us given what we try to do on offense.”
The Knights joined Snider as the only two teams to score more than 14 points against the Saints this season.
Columbia City could be the third proving throughout the season they can put up points in the air with 458 passing yards alone against East Noble.
Senior quarterback Logan Rehrer is leading a passing attack for the Eagles that showed its depth in the receiving corps with Thomas De La Cruz, Connor Slavich, Jared Murphy and Ben Murphy all recording two receptions or more in the semifinal win at Angola 41-27.
Columbia City overcame a late second half deficit to the Hornets. Known as a second half team all season, the Eagles can’t wait until the second half.
“The first quarter is going to be key as it is in all big games,” Hudgins commented. “Both teams are kind of finding things out. There is potential for big plays for teams to get up big or get down big early. We have to make sure we come out ready.
“That was a big thing in the East Noble-Dwenger game. East Noble made some mistakes in the first half that really cost them. We have to make sure we avoid those mistakes early on.”
Columbia City will look to limit a balanced attack by the Saints.
Last season, running back Remound Wright put the Eagles in a hole early. Wright scored the first of his five touchdowns in the game in the first quarter putting Dwenger up 21-0.
Wright comes into his senior season 1,364 rushing yards on 168 attempts. Averaging 136 yards per game, Wright has been the main source of scoring for the Saints with 28 total touchdowns.
“You can’t stop everything on defense,” Hudgins said. “We need to adjust to the speed they run that offense which is very fast. Obviously we need to slow down their running attack. They have two very good running backs.
“Basically, we have to take away what they do best and force them to beat us with something their not as comfortable with.”
An all-time series has Bishop Dwenger ahead 7-1 with the Eagles only win coming in 1998 on a sectional opening win over the Saints 30-24.
“Having been through that championship game atmosphere last year,” Hudgins said. “It’s something that we’re used to this season. We’ve had a lot of big games with playoff atmospheres. This will obviously be the biggest one.”