Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Northwestern vs. Columbus Will Not Disappoint

You would be angry, too. If the same kid always got higher grades than you. If your big brother always beat you up. If the same team knocked you out of the playoffs two years in a row.

And this is what the Columbus football team is experiencing right now after eventual state champion Northwestern knocked them out each of the last two years, in ugly fashion. But those were to be expected. After all, Northwestern did have QB Jacory Harris and his gang of receivers including Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter. Not to mention RB Antwain Easterling, Dade’s most feared rusher two years ago.

But this time around, when Columbus takes on Northwestern (Friday 7:30, FIU), all those players are gone and a new cast of Bulls has stepped up. Among them is Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has already thrown for over 400 yards, breaking the Northwestern passing record. Big-time recruit Daquan Hargrett is the leader for the Bulls in the backfield, along with Tyresse Jones and Corvin Lamb. Hargrett has already committed to West Virginia and will surely be looking for another state title.

On defense, the Bulls are led by Todd Chandler, a run-stopper on the defensive line sure to change games and game plans. If any weakness on the defensive side, the linebacking corps is it. After losing star Sean Spence to graduation, the Bulls ‘backing corps is trying to recover. The secondary is the strength of this team, having the size to match up with any receivers in Dade. All of them are 5’9” or taller.

Columbus, led by RB Jakhari Gore, is the last undefeated team left in 6A. Gore (1104 yards and 15 TDs) has been on a tear all lately, running for over 100 yards in five consecutive games, keying the comeback win over Killian. The highlight performance from Gore came against district rival Coral Gables, when he ran for 271 yards and 3 TDs, securing the Explorers’ district title.

Through the air, Explorer QB Garrett Colao has spread the ball around to numerous receivers, including Division I-A recruits Gary Bush and Kenny Whittaker. Whittaker, in the Killian game (possibly Columbus’ only real test), caught two late touchdowns to bring Columbus from down 12-0 to a 20-18 victory.

More impressive than the receivers in the Killian game was the defense. The Columbus defense stifled Dade’s leading rusher, Lamar Miller, holding him to 27 yards on 19 carries. The Explorer front seven has a habit of shutting down talented running backs, holding Palmetto standout Jaamal Berry to under 60 yards in a 49-0 win over the Panthers. The defense (withholding returns for touchdowns and safteys), has just allowed 4 points per game, but once again face the vaunted spread attack of the Bulls, which has picked apart the secondary again and again.

If there will be a large difference on Friday, it will come on special teams, where Columbus has struggled and dynamic return man Corvin Lamb has excelled. Miller, although held in check on offense, returned a punt for a touchdown, giving Killian the early lead. If the Explorers can limit the return game, they will be poised for a successful game.

Unlike past years, when the Bulls dominated and everyone else was marginalized, Columbus looks to be a real contender, in Dade and Florida.

And with the talent Northwestern always possess, this game should not disappoint.

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