FREMONT — The buses had just began to cool off after Columbia’s long ride to Don Paul Stadium when it was time to warm them up again.
Hamler Patrick Henry scored a pair of touchdowns before the Raiders’ offense got on the field, and rolled to a 56-15 victory in Saturday night’s Division V, Region 18 semifinal game. The Patriots scored 49 points and compiled 502 total yards in the first half.
The Patriots drove 80 yards in just six plays to open the game. Senior receiver Derek Hoops caught a
25-yard pass on the first play, Zach Nye added a 29-yard catch two plays later and senior quarterback Gabe Jones capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.
Hoops’ ensuing kickoff hit a Columbia player and was pounced on by Patriots junior running back Brandon Cole. The Patriots needed just one play — a 37-yard pass from Jones to Josh Petersen — to give them a 13-0 lead with 9:40 left in the first quarter.
“We went down 7-0 and had total confidence that we were going to get the ball and go right back down the field and score,” Columbia coach Jason Ward said. “Then we boot the ball on the kickoff and they get the score there. We still had total confidence we were going to come back down and score … we had a guy wide open on a flag and just missed him.”
The Raiders’ first drive stalled at the Patriots’ 31-yard line, but the Raiders held and forced a punt that rolled to the Columbia 1.
Columbia junior quarterback Jay Banyasz found freshman receiver Jesse Lambert deep down the right sideline on the first play. Lambert caught the ball at the Raiders 40 and had one man to beat. He tried to put a move on the Patrick Henry defender, but was caught from behind at the Patriots 40.
Five plays later, Banyasz found Austin Walaszewski in the right corner of the end zone to cut the Patriots’ lead to 13-7 with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
“It just took a bad bounce and they fell on it,” Banyasz said of the bad break on the kickoff. “There was a little doubt to start the game, but we came back and we answered it.”
The good feelings on the Columbia sideline were short-lived. The Patriots (10-2) went 82 yards in just four plays on their ensuing possession, taking a 19-7 lead when Palmer scored from the 1-yard line.
After Columbia was forced to punt, Zach Nye caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from Jones to build the Patrick Henry lead to 27-7 after Palmer ran in the 2-point conversion.
The Patriots scored three more touchdowns before halftime and the rout was on. Patrick Henry led 49-7 at intermission.
“They just blew our doors off,” Ward said. “We knew they were going to have a decided size and strength advantage on us, and the only good thing that can come out of a game like this is that our guys can kind of see what you have to be like to make it out of the second round.
“Our guys were pretty devastated at halftime about the way things went … especially in front of so many family and friends. But we felt like they came out and really put their best foot forward in the second half.”
Patrick Henry had a balanced attack in the first half … 281 yards through the air and 221 on the ground.
Though the Patriots have been a running team all season, coach Bill Inselmann wanted to establish his passing game.
“We thought they were going to put a lot of guys up at the line of scrimmage and we felt we had to mix in the pass more than we have throughout the year,” he said. “We felt they were going to stuff our run so I think that loosened them up a little bit. Then we were able to run the ball.
“The passes weren’t just small passes, they were big pass plays. I’ve been coaching 22 years, when you have big pass plays against you, that demoralizes you. It takes the juice out of you.”
Jones completed passes of 78, 55, 29, 26, 25 and 22 yards in the first half and his only incompletion came when Nye dropped what would have been a sure 60-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
“They must have saw something and, obviously, our secondary didn’t have the greatest game in the world,” Ward said. “There’s not much you can do when you know they can run as well as they can. Then you go cover-two and take a guy out of the box … what’s going to happen then?
“We had to put our faith in our corners and our safety, just like we have all year, and they had a rough night. But they’ll be back.”
The Raiders (10-2) fell behind 56-7 in the third quarter before scoring the game’s final points on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Banyasz to Edmiston with 6:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Banyasz, who rushed for 271 yards in the Raiders’ first-round playoff win over Archbold, was held to just 31 yards on 14 carries. He completed 20 of 40 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
“We wanted to minimize the damage on Jay tonight and we knew he was going to take some shots,” Ward said. “He stood in there and made some great throws. A lot of the season we were able to run out of a certain formation and they weren’t about to give that up, weren’t about to let him run the ball out of the formation we’ve had a lot of success with. I think things just snowballed on us so fast that it was hard to overcome.”
Senior nose tackle Bryan Horn, who finished with six tackles and two tackles for losses, wanted to point out how far the Raiders seniors have come this season. Prior to this season, the Raiders had never hosted or won a playoff game and the team finished with a school-record 10 wins.
“Back in the seventh and eighth grades, my class was never very strong in football,” he said. “We won one game in two years and I think we played 15 games. It’s just amazing to see how much we’ve grown.”
Horn also liked how the Raiders finished the game.
“When we went into the locker room, Coach Ward told us this was possibly our last half of football,” Horn said. “He told us if we were to do anything he didn’t want to see us with our heads down … win or lose he wanted to see us keep fighting until the clock hit zero.”
Ward talked about the pride he felt for his seniors while looking forward to next season when he will have the large majority of his players back.
“I haven’t done the numbers, but I’m sure these seniors have won more games than any other group of guys that have gone through (Columbia),” he said. “It’s been an amazing run for those guys. We’re going to have this to draw on when our weight room opens up.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.