Columbia Academy’s homecoming didn’t go as the Cougars hoped with Presbyterian Christian scoring early and often Friday night in a 41-22 defeat of the home squad.
The Cougars (1-5) were shorthanded to begin with going into the game, and it only got worse.
“The injury bug just keeps piling up,” head coach Randy Butler said. “We went into the game without three starters. Jacob Bain was in an accident Thursday, Dakota Breeland was out, another was out and we ended up losing Preston (Sauls) on the second or third play of the game. That puts you behind the eight ball right off the bat, and then we had some more injuries during the game. Peyton Rowell, who was injured in the Brookhaven game, came back and he went out. We got a couple kids sick; Carter Rowell just found out he has mono so he’s done for the year. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never seen it this bad.”
Man for man the Cougars actually matched up with PCS well, but the kicker was that the Bobcats had two athletes CA couldn’t bottle up. Rico Dorsey and Marquis Crosby combined for 405 all-purpose yards offensively and five touchdowns on 35 touches (11.6 yards per touch) for the Bobcats and gave the Cougars defense fits all game.
“We fought and played relatively hard the whole game, but we just weren’t good enough. They had some playmakers, and some of the things we talked about what we had to do we didn’t do like tackle in space and stay on the field,” Butler said.
The undermanned Cougars have to rebound quickly as they head to Meridian Friday to take on Lamar School (5-2). The Raiders have several impressive wins on their resume, including PCS, Simpson Academy and Starkville Academy, and possess a passing attack that is unlike any CA has faced this year.
Lamar quarterback Will Morris has thrown for 1,426 yards and 13 touchdowns, and receiver Jacob Patridge has 44 receptions for 774 yards and eight touchdowns. Butler said the Cougars will need to mix it up defensively or else they will get picked apart.
“You can’t sit back there in zone all night, and you can’t blitz a whole lot and play man so it has to be a mixture. Our pass rush has got to be better,” he said.
The Bobcats wasted no time Friday producing fireworks offensively as Dorsey, who totaled 188 yards on just 12 touches, caught a short pass form Collin Necaise, juked Cougars cornerback Eli Beard and took it to the house to make it 7-0 less than two minutes into the game.
Columbia Academy responded, though, with a 10-play scoring drive that Butler said was the best drive the Cougars have had all season. Riles Stuart capped off the possession by walking into the end zone from a yard out, but the Cougars couldn’t convert the two-point conversion and trailed 7-6.
On a 4th-and-2 from the CA 13 on Presbyterian’s next drive, Dorsey made the Cougars pay again.
He lined up as a Wildcat quarterback, made a man miss in the hole and cruised into the end zone to make it 14-6. Then PCS kicker Garrett Lunceford pooched the kickoff to the CA 25, where the ball bounced about 15 feet into the air, allowed the Bobcats enough time to hit Preston Sauls as he tried to catch it and recover it at the CA 22. Three plays later Crosby scored on a 3-yard run, putting PCS firmly in control up 21-6 just 26 seconds into the second quarter.
The Cougars had a chance to make a game of it despite punting on their next drive as Trevor Courtney intercepted a tipped ball to steal a possession. However, the Cougars ran three straight times for 2 yards each, leading to a Patrick Gill punt that only went 10 yards as he was pressured to kick it early.
The Bobcats wasted no time finding pay dirt again with Crosby running in his second touchdown of the game late in the second quarter to put PCS up 28-6 going into halftime.
Things went from bad to worse in the third quarter for the Cougars. On the second play of CA’s opening possession Ras Pace completed a pass to Peyton Rowell, who rolled his ankle as he was tackled and fumbled. Butler said Monday that Rowell will be out this week.
The Bobcats marched back down the field in short order, and Necaise punctuated the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Blake Wilberding to make it 35-6. Crosby added another rushing score after Pace fumbled inside CA’s 10-yard line that ballooned the Bobcats’ lead to 41-6.
Stuart gave the Cougars some late juice, though, as he had touchdowns runs of 12 and 71 yards in the fourth quarter, but the game was out of reach.
“We scored a couple touchdowns late and the defense played a little bit better late so we’ll build on those things and try to improve in some areas like tackling, covering, blocking and just try to get them ready for this week,” Butler said.
Butler said that after the Cougars’ opening drive they just hit a brick wall with a depleted roster, especially with Eli Beard and Preston Sauls going down with injuries during the game.
“Things were compounded by injuries,” he said.
Butler added the injuries are particularly a problem when the Cougars already have a small roster and had planned on playing several guys both ways from the start this year.
Pictured Above: Columbia Academy running back Riles Stuart fights through an arm tackle Friday night against PCS. The senior rushed for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. | Photo by Joshua Campbell