COLUMBIA CITY — Whether the number 13 is lucky or unlucky may be a point of view.
After 12 straight season-opening losses to the Warsaw Tigers, Friday night’s 13th meeting was most fortunate for the Columbia City Eagle football team. The Eagles used a potent offense and an opportunistic defense that caused seven turnovers to post a 35-26 win over the Tigers at the Max Gandy Athletic Field.
The Eagles took the opening kick-off and covered 63 yards in five plays, with the big play being the first of four Columbia City passing touchdowns.
Following an 18-yard pass from senior quarterback Logan Rehrer to receiver Austin Grim and a run by junior Jacob Johnson, Rehrer hit senior Thomas De La Cruz on a 44-yard post pattern to put the Eagles up 7-0 following Devin Rice’s extra point kick.
Two minutes later, senior nose guard Jacob Moser jumped on a Warsaw fumble giving the Eagles a first and 10 on the Columbia City 43.
The Eagles capitalized six plays later when Rehrer hit De La Cruz on another post route for the Eagles’ second score. The play, good for 17 yards gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 7:07 left in the first quarter.
“We were able to get up 14 points early and we preached to our guys all week that against a running team if we can get up early that its going to change their play calling a lot and we took advantage of those opportunities,” noted Eagle head coach Randy Hudgins.
The Eagles blunted the next Warsaw drive when sophomore Jarod Murphy gathered in the first of his three interceptions on the evening.
The Tigers threatened early in the second period, but junior Tyler Andreas picked off a fourth down Warsaw pass at the goal line.
Warsaw got on the board, when the Eagles were forced to punt from deep in their own territory. The Tigers with a first down on the Columbia City 26- yard line scored on a pass from quarterback Jeremy Coppes to Ryan Lowe to make the score 14-7 with 5:54 left in the half.
The Eagle defense again forced a turnover as Moser broke through on a botched punt snap and blocked and recovered the ball for the Eagles moving the ball down to the Warsaw three-yard line. On the second
play Rehrer flipped a three yard scoring strike to junior receiver Connor Slavich to put the Eagles up 21-7 at the half.
The second half did not start any better for the visiting Tigers as Moser hit running back Zach Rooney causing a fumble that was recovered by CC senior Ben Murphy on the Warsaw 15-yard line.
Following a 14-yard run by Dylan Miller, Rehrer took the ball over on a quarterback sneak to put the Eagles up 28-7 with 10:53 left in the third quarter.
Following an exchange of punts the Tigers embarked on a 19-play drive that oddly ended in both an interception and a safety.
Working the ball down to the Columbia City 20- yard line, Warsaw went to the air and Jared Murphy
picked of his second pass of the evening and took a knee in the end zone.
Following a conference among the officials it was ruled that Murphy had taken a step out of the end
zone before retreating and taking the knee and the Tigers were awarded the two points for the safety.
Murphy again picked the Tigers off at the goal line on their next series and this time there was no hesitation as he returned the ball to the Warsaw 45.
Warsaw scored with 5;18 left in the game on a one-yard plunge to close to 28-16. The Eagles ended the game the way they began it with an aerial scoring play when Rehrer scrambled to his right and threw a 30-yard bullet to Slavich in the corner of the end zone with 1:49 left in the contest to account for the final 35-16 score.
The Eagles finished plus five in the turnover department picking up two fumbles and five interceptions, while offensively picking up 155 yards and four touchdown through the air.
“This was a total team win for us,” Hudgins said. “We had a very opportunistic defense and a big play offense. This game is a good measuring stick of how far we have come. Winning the opening game is a big springboard for the rest of the year.”
The Eagles prepare to take on cross county rival Whitko for the first time in five years when they travel to South Whitley Friday.