It’s playoff time for the Columbia Academy Cougars (2-7) as they secured the No. 9 seed in the 12-team Class 4A field and will travel to No. 8 Clinton Christian Academy (5-5) Friday night for a first-round showdown.
The Warriors are very athletic with three to four players who can really make plays, according to Cougars head coach Randy Butler.
“They’ve lost four in a row, but they’ve played some pretty good football teams. The other night they played Riverfield — Riverfield is the top seed in 4A — and it was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter. They had a couple of turnovers, and Riverfield scored on a turnover and kind of ran away late in the second quarter. But (Clinton) is very explosive offensively. They spread you out, run the football and have three guys they put in the backfield, and they remind me a little bit of Adams (County Christian).”
Clinton is rather balanced offensively and is led by senior quarterback Dylan Mitchell. The gunslinger has thrown for 1,812 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions this year to go along with 287 yards and three scores on the ground. Keiwon Rodgers leads the rushing attack with 787 yards (10.2 yards per carry) and six touchdowns, and Darrius Scott has 604 yards and six scores.
Defensively Clinton stacks the line of scrimmage and plays man-to-man coverage on the outside, according to Butler. He said the Warriors’ philosophy is stop the run and force teams to beat them through the air.
“It will be a big challenge,” he said. “We’re tickled to death to be in the playoffs, though. It’s a new season. We’ve got to put behind us the season that we had. We’re in the playoffs now and have to treat it as a brand new year.”
The Cougars have been decimated by injuries but did get senior linebacker Patrick Gill back against Oak Forest Academy Friday night. Gill delivered in his return with 15 tackles, six solo tackles and a tackle for loss.
Butler said he isn’t sure if starting H-back Mason Dilmore will be able to come back after breaking a finger three weeks ago and that he doesn’t expect wide receiver Peyton Rowell to play either.
“Everybody else is healthy. We’re about as healthy as we’ve been in five to six weeks,” he said.
With a win over Clinton the Cougars would travel to Rayville, La., to take on No. 1 Riverfield Academy (10-0) Nov. 8.
Columbia Academy played host to Oak Forest Friday for senior night and struggled to find its footing during a torrential downpour in a 35-8 loss. The Cougars were held to just 84 yards rushing on 26 carries and completed only one pass for 44 yards.
“They’re a really good football team,” Butler said. “I think they’re one of the best teams in the state. It will be an interesting game this week when they play MRA, but they’re physical on both sides. We competed, but we just had some turnovers and we didn’t stop the run like I hoped we would. It was a messy game, but we competed for the most part.”
Riles Stuart, who has been hampered recently by shoulder soreness that occurred against Wayne Academy Oct. 18, provided the lone score for CA with a short touchdown run. Freshman Preston Sauls was responsible for the majority of the Cougars’ production with 70 yards on just six carries.
Defensively Columbia Academy did force two turnovers of its own with Ras Pace picking off a pass for the second straight game and Kris Ginn recovering a fumble.
Cole Rowell led the way with 16 tackles, followed by Gill’s 15.
Pictured Above: CA's Cole Rowell and Kris Ginn combine to make a tackle against Wayne Academy Oct. 18. | Photo by Joshua Campbell