September 19, 2014

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H.S. Football: Columbia grinds out victory over Lutheran West to stay unbeaten

Lutheran West's Brad Warnkin is stopped by Columbia's Justin Reznik. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

Lutheran West’s Brad Warnkin is stopped by Columbia’s Justin Reznik. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

ROCKY RIVER — Hobbled quarterback, stalled offense, costly penalties at inopportune times — Columbia was going to have to earn this win over Lutheran West on Friday night.

But earn it the Raiders did, with a whole lot of Jacob Kleinhenz, a timely pass by that hobbled QB and two key takeaways in the fourth quarter of a 21-7 win over the Longhorns.

“They always play us tough,” said Kleinhenz, who ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns. “They’re always very physical with us, every year, and we’ve developed a good rivalry with them.”

Standout Raiders quarterback Jay Banyasz, who was injured in last week’s win over Oberlin, started and played the duration, but was limited. In fact, the dual-threat Banyasz logged only three carries — including two kneel-downs to close it out.

Instead, the Raiders used Kleinhenz and Co. in the backfield to grind their way to a 14-0 halftime lead that for much of the game looked like all they’d need. Kleinhenz, who gained 206 yards and scored three times last week, finished off two long drives with 2- and 3-yard scores this week. The former came on a 17-play, 79-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes, and the latter capped a drive extended by Michael Boey’s 32-yard run on a fake punt from midfield.

Lutheran West, though, forced two straight punts to start the second half, and cut the lead in half with a long jaunt of its own: a 13-play, 71-yard drive that took nearly five minutes and ended with a touchdown pass with 2:26 left in the third. The drive was aided by two crucial encroachment penalties on Columbia that kept the Longhorns alive.

Then the Longhorns forced another Columbia punt, and it was game on. Right?

Wrong. Columbia’s Justin Resnik pounced on a Lutheran West fumble at the Longhorn 36, and Columbia chewed up 4:54 before Banyasz found Tyler Edmisten for a touchdown with 6:27 left. In a twist, the Raiders also benefited from an encroachment penalty to keep the chains moving.

On the Longhorns’ ensuing possession, Sean Nagle picked off Greg Kunze to seal it.

“We did what we had to do,” Columbia coach Jason Ward said of his 8-0 team, which is 5-0 in the PAC. “I’m just real proud of my football team. That’s a tough team at Lutheran West. Our defense played outstanding and was really physical. We’re getting back to that physical mentality we had at the end of last year.”

Ward said he expected Banyasz, who completed 10 of 15 throws for 84 yards, to keep improving and be nearly completely healthy for next week.

“He’s a competitor. It’s his senior year and he wanted to play,” Ward said. “You only get one senior year. We wanted to get the ball in and out of his hands quickly when he did throw.”

“Columbia’s a tremendous football team, and that pulled them through in this game,” Lutheran West coach Dave Stupka said. “They know how to win, and that was evident as we got into crunch time.”

BAD TIMING: A local TV station was at Lutheran West for one of its featured games, and for an anchor’s standup rallied the Longhorn student section. One problem: The noise came at a crucial time, with Lutheran West facing a fourth-and-2 with four minutes left. The Longhorns called a timeout to talk things over as their student section loudly cheered.

Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or hammond_joel@yahoo.com.