Columbus looking to make more history

Columbus will play in their first ever state title game on Saturday. (photo: Carolyn Eddington)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Nov 27, 2014

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Just last week we did a feature on Columbus making their first semifinal appearance in school history with a match-up against Santa Fe Trail. Well, now it's time to discuss the 4A-II state championship as the Titans punched their ticket to the first ever 4A-II state championship in Salina on Saturday with a dominating 44-12 victory over Santa Fe Trail in the state semifinals last Friday. It marks the first time Columbus will have ever played for a state football championship in the playoff era. 

"It's really exciting. There is definitely a buzz around here. Our kids have played some very good football over the last few weeks." Dan Grundy, Columbus head coach said. "I've encouraged the kids to enjoy this week and to really take it in. There are a lot of coaches and players that will never get the chance to be a part of a state title game."

The Titans (11-1) will face Andale on Saturday in Salina for a chance to win a 4A-II state title. Andale is 12-0 on the year and is in their first state title game since 2007, with two state titles in their school history (2006, 2007). Andale, a run first team with a lot of speed, is led by seniors Hank Eck and Hunter Knoblauch who have each rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Indians in 2014.

"I feel like we are both physical aggressive teams. I think people that run the ball and our physical have a good shot at winning at this time of the year." Grundy said. 

Columbus is led by junior Jace McDown who has rushed for 1,518 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season. Senior quarterback Nate Bole is a dual threat with over 1,000 total yards of offense and 20 combined touchdowns. Junior Javohn Morrill and freshman Keenan Stanley also are threats in the Columbus passing game.  Taylor Watkins (125 tackles), Garrett Brittain (98 tackles), McDown (88 tackles), and Zack Roark (84 tackles) lead the Columbus defense. Senior Kendal Hale and Roark lead the defense with two interceptions a piece.

"Offensively I think we are finding that good balance and obviously we want to rely on the run which we fall back on quite a bit. When you have to defend the run, pass and the screen game it makes it difficult for a defense to defend all three of those," Grundy said. "Our defense has played really solid over the past several weeks, they have been very disciplined".

The Titans are 10-13 all-time in the state playoffs in 14 total appearances. They had previously made the quarterfinals on three other occasions (1978, 1998, 2007) coming into the year. It is safe to say that they are in unfamiliar territory. So how does a team that has never made it past the quarterfinals coming into this year handle playing in a state championship game? 

"Our kids have played in a lot of big games. Our schedule I think has us prepared. You have to remember what got you to this point and you have to do that," Grundy said. 

The community of 3,300 people in the southeast corner of the state is as excited as ever. Although it may sound crazy, winning football games creates a positive environment for everyone involved. There is a definite buzz around the community that had seven total playoff wins since 1969 coming into the 2014 season. The Titans historical season has also brought this small community together. 

"The entire community has pulled together to show their support for the Titan football team. The enthusiasm it has brought to our community is unbelievable," Mike Carpino, owner of Mike Carpino Ford said. "We're no strangers to competing in other sports at this level, especially in wrestling, but the environment in football this year is unlike we've ever seen before. We look forward to seeing everyone in Salina on Saturday." 

Saturday's matchup with Andale is scheduled for 1:00 pm at Salina's District Stadium. Look for the Titans to make more history as they will go for their first ever state football title in the playoff era. 

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Check out the radio interview here w/ Coach Grundy