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COLUMBIA CITY — Following last week’s emotional roller coaster of a win over East Noble, the concern was that the Columbia City Eagle football team might come out a bit flat for their senior night Northeast Hoosier Conference contest with the Carroll Chargers. The host Eagles erased those worries with a 24-point, first-half outburst on their way to a 31-24 win over the Chargers that was not as close as the score indicated.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff and marched down the field using a 16-yard run by junior Cody Wildman and a 28-yard pass to Blake Creech on a fourth-and-two to sustain the drive. A six-yard touchdown pass from Columbia City quarterback Logan Rehrer to Ben Murphy capped the drive putting the Eagles up 7-0 with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
“We preached a quick start from the outset,” Columbia City head coach Randy Hudgins said. “Obviously a letdown was a big concern for us.” “It was good to see our offense come out and perform from the start.”
The Chargers used a 55-yard run by senior running back Corey Nelson on their first play from scrimmage to move deep into Eagle territory. Four plays later, Nelson went into the end zone from six yards out to knot the score at 7-7 with seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Eagles went back on the offensive and again moved down the field with Wildman rambling for 43 yards to the Carroll 22 yard line. Rehrer then scampered 17 yards to set up a first-and-goal for the Eagles, but two straight losses forced the Eagles to settle for a 32-yard field goal by senior placekicker Devin Rice and a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The two teams traded interceptions, with the Eagles’ Jared Murphy nabbing his first of two picks on the night. Connor Slavich also blunted the Chargers’ next drive with an interception of his own in the end zone to end the first quarter.
The Eagles made use of Slavich’s pick on the second play from scrimmage when Rehrer hit Ben Murphy on a 54-yard scoring strike down the left sideline to put the Eagles up 17-7 with only 14 seconds gone in the second quarter.
The Chargers took advantage of a Columbia City fumble to kick a 42-yard field goal to cut the Columbia City lead to 17-10.
The Eagles again struck quickly from long distance with Rehrer dialing up Thomas De La Cruz. Rehrer, who became the CCHS career leader in passing yardage, attempts, completions and total offense during the game, hit the speedy De La Cruz on a shot up the middle and the Columbia City receiver ran away from the Carroll defenders for a 65-yard touchdown that put Columbia City up 24-10 at halftime.
“Our running game needs to get better,” Hudgins said. “They were blitzing up the middle which opened things for the pass, but we still have to be able to run when they do that.”
The Eagles got a second touchdown from De La Cruz in the third quarter. Rehrer and De La Cruz connected for a 16-yard score to put Columbia City up 31-10.
With a little under five minutes, the Eagles sent in their reserves. The Chargers elected to keep in their starters and picked up two late scores against the Columbia City substitutes for the final 31-24 score.
“We were able to take advantage of some stuff early on, but we have to shore up our protection up the middle and we did that in the second half,” Hudgins said.
“We wanted to try to run the ball in the second half and use up some clock,” noted Hudgins. “I think we could have scored some more points.”
Running back Wildman led the Eagles with 106 yards on 16 carries, while Rehrer connected on 17-of-30 pass attempts for 242 yards and four touchdowns
“The conference championship is a big goal, but our ultimate goal is to be playing in November,” Hudgins noted,
“We have one more game to win a conference championship,” Hudgins commented in looking forward to next Friday night when the Eagles travel to Norwell to close out the regular season with the NHC title on the line against the Knights.