SOUTH WHITLEY — “Since the beginning of the year we were waiting for this game,” said Eagles QB Logan Rehrer.
It was 2004 and Columbia City was a 1-9 team with the lone win coming against one of its most hated rivals.
Almost six years later to the day, the Eagles went into South Whitley as an undefeated team and left as one.
Friday night, the Eagles renewed a long lost rivalry with Whitko by jumping on the Wildcats early and junior Jacob Johnson finished it from there.
With a 16-0 lead at halftime, Johnson used his 115 yards and two touchdowns to help Columbia City rout Whitko 30-0.
“The line came out and made big holes tonight and I hit them,” Johnson said. “It’s really big. The seniors wanted a shot at them and it was really good tonight.”
The Eagles and Wildcats met as undefeated teams for the first time since 1997 with each team entering tonight's game at 1-0. It didn’t take long for that to change with Columbia City striking early and consistently throughout the game.
On the first possession of the game, the Eagles quickly silenced the crowd just 1:12 in. After a 70-yard catch across the middle took senior Blake Creech down to the 5-yard line, Johnson began his night of weaving through the Whitko defense scoring a five-yard touchdown run.
“It’s huge in setting the tone,” said Columbia City head coach Randy Hudgins. “To come out and get on top of them early was great. We preached all week if you get up on a running team like that it's going to change the play calling.”
Penalties were something Columbia City battled all night, finishing with 10, but in the second quarter the Eagles got help from Whitko which struggled on fielding returns all night.
After a punt return by Jared Murphy was called back, Whitko had a punt bounce off the back of the returner and get recovered by Columbia City in the second quarter.
One play after recovering the fumble, senior Dylan Miller finished what he started scoring on a run up the middle from 13 yards out.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats' defense battled an Eagles' defense that owned the line of scrimmage sacking Whitko quarterback Alex Stoddard six times on the night.
After back-to-back sacks in a second quarter drive, the City pressure forced Stoddard into a interception to Eagle Jared Murphy.
“Our defense just played over the top,” Hudgins noted. “Those guys just get to the football and get there with a pretty mean attitude.”
Murphy’s fourth interception led to three more points for Columbia City before the halftime break.
From 22 yards out, senior Devin Rice put one through the uprights leaving the first half with a 16-0 lead for Columbia City.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, Johnson began to close the door on Whitko in the second half.
On their first drive of the third quarter, Johnson took the third play from scrimmage, through a hole in the Wildcat blitz, 43 yards down the sideline to push the lead to 23-0 with 7:32 left in the third.
“It’s his first varsity season,” Hudgins said of Johnson. “He really stepped up, especially in the second half.”
Whitko replied with its best chance at a touchdown by marching down the field.
Two plays by running back Chris Bumbaugh got the ’Cats to midfield where Stoddard found wide out Derek Snep for 15 yards on a deflection reception.
Stoddard followed scrambling for 16 yards but the Columbia City defense stood Whitko up from there. Two sacks and 16 yards backwards left Whitko in a fourth-and-goal from 21 yards out where a field goal was missed.
“We just had too many mistakes and you can’t do that to a good team,” said Whitko head coach Wayne Swender. “They’re pretty good up front. Today, Columbia City controlled the line of scrimmage.”
A 40-yard pass down the middle between quarterback Logan Rehrer and De La Cruz highlighted the last Eagles' score. Senior Cory Clifford capped off the night with a one-yard touchdown plunge.