Trojans outlast CHS in final home game
When an undefeated team faces an opponent with a 2-4 record, an outcome that involves a very high, lopsided score may seem inevitable.
While the underdogs did not leave the field victorious in Columbus on Friday, the Cougars gave the Whitehall Trojans a run for their money that few may have expected.
Following the senior night festivities, Columbus senior Kenneth Smith returned the opening kick-off to mid-field.
After driving down the field to the Whitehall 20-yard line, the Trojans intercepted the Cougar pass in the end zone.
Whitehall failed to capitalize on the turnover, but following a set of punts, the Trojans put up the first points of the game with 1:15 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was owned by the defenses. After each team was forced to punt, Columbus once again gave the ball to junior Carson West for punt duty. West faked the punt, instead tucking the ball and running for first down yardage.
The fake punt gave the Cougars some momentum, and a 30-yard pass to junior Dylan Raihl put Columbus in Whitehall territory.
Then the Cougars stalled out, being forced to actually punt the ball. The Trojan returner fumbled the ball, but Whitehall recovered it.
Right before halftime, and after a long drive down the field, Raihl intercepted a Trojan pass in the red zone, ensuring the Cougars would go into the break only down six points.
Whitehall came out of halftime with a spark, scoring after the first 38 seconds, extending the lead to 12.
Columbus was forced to punt on the next possession, but the Cougars were given a new life when the Trojan returner touched the ball, but did not grab it, as it rolled on the ground in front of him. Raihl jumped on the ball for his second takeaway of the game. The Cougars moved the ball down to the 2-yard line, but on fourth and goal could not get it across the goal line.
A punt from each team ushered in the fourth quarter.
Whitehall drove the ball down the field, cashing in with a touchdown with nine and a half minutes left in the game.
After getting the ball back, Columbus quickly found themselves in a third and long situation. A pass to senior Connor Goddard gained the 14 yards needed and kept the drive alive.
Raihl, flanked by two defenders, then pulled in a 45-yard grab worthy of the highlight reels.
On fourth and 10 from the 11-yard line, a pass to Raihl in the end zone put the Cougars on the board with about five minutes left in the game, closing the gap to make it a two possession game.
Whitehall drove down the field quickly, but Smith intercepted it in the end zone.
The Cougars failed to capitalize on the third Whitehall turnover of the game, and the Trojans were able to score one last time with 48 seconds left.
An interception of a Cougar pass ended the game with a final score of 26-6.
The Columbus offense put up 259 passing yards behind senior quarterback Eddie Foos. He completed 25 of 38 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. The final interception of the game was thrown by West.
Five sacks of Foos took away any Cougar rushing yards and then some, putting the final rushing total for Columbus at -14 yards.
Raihl led the team offensively, with 178 yards on 11 catches. Coach Blake Hoge described Raihl’s performance as a “monster night,” saying “much of his yardage (came) through hustle and grit after contact.”
Next up were Smith and West, putting up 38 yards and 34 yards of offense, respectively.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars were led by junior Colton Getz with six tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack. Sophomores Tommy Campbell and Ricky Preece were close behind with 5.5 tackles each, and senior Michael Jacobson rounded out the group with 4.5 tackles.
Raihl’s interception and fumble recovery, as well as Smith’s interception were key to the Columbus defensive effort.
Hoge acknowledged how tough Whitehall is, saying he expects the Trojans to do well in the post-season. With that said, he is proud of how well the Cougars competed on senior night.
“We were able to hang with one of the best teams in the state for three quarters, but in the end they proved too much,” Hoge said.
The Cougars have been eliminated from the playoffs, but they can still influence the post-season as a win over Big Timber on Wednesday could affect the Herders’ playoff fate.
Big Timber has performed well this season, and Hoge said Columbus is “going to have to come in ready to play against some hard-nosed, ground-and-pound football.”
Even with a short week of preparation, the Cougars plan to do just that.
The Renegades also fell short on senior night last Friday, losing to Shields Valley 53-26.
Coach Derek Marsh explained that the team did not play its best, and it will have to refocus on the fundamentals in a quick fashion, as the Renegades only have two days to prepare for the Grass Range-Winnett Rangers.
Even with a loss to Grass Range-Winnett on Wednesday, the Renegades should finish the southern 6-man conference in at least fourth place, good enough for a trip to the playoffs.
With the Panthers’ 32-27 loss to Joliet last Friday, Park City’s playoff hopes slipped away, too.
The Panthers will finish out their season at home on Thursday in a cross-county rivalry game against the Absarokee Huskies on senior night.
The Huskies could not pull out a victory against a tough Lone Peak team, falling with a 21-6 final score last Friday.
With any playoff hopes gone, Absarokee looks to bring home the bragging rights from Thursday’s game in Park City.