Editor’s note: The following is the second of a four-part series on Columbia City’s football team.
COLUMBIA CITY — Whatever plans the Eagles made for 2012 — Columbia City was brought down to Earth in a season-opening loss at the hands of its neighbors to the west, the Warsaw Tigers.
The Eagles fell by a score of 20-14 in a game where their defense gave up 323 rushing yards.
“I was disappointed by how we came out in that first game,” said head coach Randy Hudgins. “But, that game got us much more focused.
“As coaches, there were things we probably could’ve done to have the players better focused for the start of the season. We had some unusual circumstances with weather in the scrimmage with Goshen and with the season starting before school. Next time we’re in that situation, we’ll know how to handle it better.”
Columbia City was able to get in the win column the next week at Whitko, then won again the following week against Bellmont, its first Northeast Hoosier Conference opponent of the season.
“Our guys rallied from week one to play Whitko in one of our better games of the year. Then we turned around and beat a very good Bellmont team. Our defense really started to step up.”
On the way to the win over the Braves, Columbia City also suffered a big loss; senior running back Adam Neely broke his left tibia, the weight-bearing bone in the lower leg. Neely was sidelined by the injury through the rest of the regular season.
Neely combined for 527 yards and seven touchdowns in the opening three games, including 215 yards against Whitko. As significant as his departure was, it was not the last major injury a Columbia City player would suffer.
The Eagles opened up September with a home tilt with perennial NHC powerhouse Homestead. Columbia City fell 41-6 in the contest, but Hudgins gleaned a few encouraging observations from the meeting.
“We slowed them down and caused several turnovers.”
The Eagles took what they learned against the Spartans and applied it to their game the following week at DeKalb. They beat down the Barons 62-10.
However, along the way to its second NHC victory, Columbia City lost another senior starter to injury. Linebacker Austin McCormick blew his knee out at the end of the half. McCormick was done for the season.
“You never like to see that,” said Hudgins. “That was a difficult one for us. He’s rehabilitating. Hopefully he can play baseball this spring.”
Eagle starting offensive guard Russell Hazelet was one among others that had to step up to fill the void in the linebacking corps.
In the DeKalb game, Columbia City made school history. For the first time in Eagles football, a female scored a point, as senior Haley Boner kicked a point-after-touchdown in the second half of the game.
Following the DeKalb win, Columbia City held a 3-2 record, having gone 2-1 in NHC games. That was the last time the Eagles held a winning record in 2012.
For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 16 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition . For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage  and find us on facebook .