Cougs open BIG

Columbus boys bring home 62-40 win from Red Lodge
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Cougs open BIG

(Photo by Lorie Martinez) Colby Martinez

RED LODGE — At one point during the third quarter Friday night, Columbus quarterback Caden Meier seized up with leg cramps, a reaction to the amount of plays he and his red-hot and high-scoring offense ran during a frenetic game between returning Class B playoff teams.

But Meier ultimately put a cramp in Red Lodge’s plans for a happy home opener by throwing five touchdown passes in the Cougars’ 62-40 victory at Palisades Field.

Meier and running back Trey Johannes sliced through Red Lodge’s defense to the tune of 56 first-half points on the way to a rousing season-opening triumph.

Johannes caught two TDs and ran for two more as the Cougars took advantage of four defensive takeaways in the opening half.

“We were told to score more points than them,” Meier said with a smile afterward. “At the end of the day we got the win.”

“The first half was really long,” Meier said of all the points that were scored before halftime. “I haven’t played a full (game) both sides of the ball since eighth grade. I think we’re a little out of shape too.”

Red Lodge runner Jay Jetmore, coming off a 380-plus rushing performance a week earlier in the Rams’ opening win at Big Timber, fumbled the ball away on the third play of the game. That led to a 17-yard touchdown pass on a screen from Meier to Johannes to give Columbus the lead.

Garrett Meier intercepted Rams quarterback Trey Allen on the ensuing series, which produced another Meier-to-Johannes scoring play, this time on a 7-yard swing pass to the flat.

By the time Johannes scored on a 4-yard run in the second quarter — after a 31-yard pass from Meier to standout receiver Colby Martinez — the Cougars led 48-14.

“The turnovers in the first half didn’t help. The short fields in the first half didn’t help,” said Red Lodge coach John Fitzgerald, whose team went 10-1 last season and advanced to the semifinal round of the Class B playoffs. “Bottom line is they came out and they were ready to go and were focused and executed. “I don’t think they had too many incomplete passes in the first half.

“Any time somebody comes in and hangs 56 on you in the first half, it’s not a good thing.”

Red Lodge’s offense kept pace for a while after falling in a two-touchdown hole. Allen hit 215-pound tight end Corby Mann with an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and later found Rizon Berndt with a 42-yard scoring pass.

Things slowed down (a lot) in the second half. Meier hooked up with Martinez on a short touchdown pass late in the third for Columbus’ only scoring play after halftime. That play followed a sequence in which Martinez appeared to trap a deep pass off the turf over the middle; the officials gave Martinez the catch.

Jetmore scored a second TD on the ground for Red Lodge in the third quarter, and Mann also caught another touchdown pass, but it was too little, too late.

Meier wasn’t the only player felled by cramps during what was a frenetic affair. Johannes had to literally crawl to the sideline in one instance in the second half, and Red Lodge’s Elijah Reynolds, a Montana State football commit, was also stymied.

In the end, Columbus’ hot start proved too great.

“I don’t think they were ready for us to run the ball as well as we did. And our line really stepped up,” said Meier, whose team lost to Eureka in the state quarterfinals last year. “It really opening up the passing” game.

“Trey really had a good game,” Meier said of Johannes. “He really opened it up for me and our receivers.”

Fitzgerald praised Meier, who, in a notunfamiliar Montana twist, is the coach’s nephew.

“He played great. I thought he had good tempo and made good decisions,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s got really nice ball flight. He is a good kid. Very competitive.

“We’ve just got to start focusing on some basics and get back to it.”

From Cougar Coach Blake Hoge

Caden Meier made great decisions all night distributing the ball to our playmakers. Trey Johannes had a particularly good night rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns along with 46 yards receiving and two more touchdowns. The man of the hour on defense was Garrett Meier starting his first varsity game at corner. He led us in tackles with 9 (5 solo and 4 assist) and had three takeaways himself (2 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery).

I can’t complain about the offensive output since we were able to score 56 in the first half, but I would like to see our defense tighten up as the season progresses. Our line really stepped it up and allowed us to average almost 10 yards a carry.

Boulder comes to town next week for our first conference game. Coach Layng does a great job getting his guys ready to play, particularly on defense, and it will be a nice test to see how good we really are.”

Home fans are allowed to attend as long as they wear their masks and social distance between families.