After watching his team allow 50 points a week ago, Columbia coach Kemper Amick was curious how his squad would respond in the Region 3-2A opener against fourth-ranked Strom Thurmond on Thursday night at Bolden Stadium.
It was a bend-but-don’t break showing, and the Capitals (4-2, 1-0) made enough big plays when it mattered in the hard-fought 18-13 victory against the Rebels.
"I never thought we could play defensive as bad as we did last week," Amick said. "We challenged the guys a little bit this week, and they responded in a big way. This is a huge win for us."
The defense allowed over 300 yards but twice held the Rebels to field goals when they drove deep into Columbia territory. The Rebels led 13-12 early in the fourth quarter - thanks to two Columbia miscues on extra points - and were driving for a clinching score when Ron Amaker intercepted Raleigh Yeldell at the Capitals’ 31-yard line with 7:46 to go.
That’s when Ky Tyler stepped in. The Columbia quarterback began the fourth quarter on the bench because of cramps but returned after Amaker’s pick. Facing a third-and-14, Tyler scrambled to his right to avoid the rush and found a wide open Brandon Shaw streaking down the Rebels’ sideline.
"When I scrambled out, I saw the cornerback fall down," Tyler said. "I just took my time and threw it with enough on it where I was sure it was going to get to Brandon."
Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer was not sure what happened on the play.
"We let a guy get lost behind us, and their quarterback is very poised and he made a play when he had to," Sawyer said. "He did a great job of moving around and finding ways to make plays."
The Capitals jumped on top by taking the opening drive 67 yards in eight plays. Tyler hit Roderick Weeks on an 18-yard gain and Casey Gladney on a 20-yard pass to set up DeErick Bradley 3-yard scoring run.
Strom Thurmond answered that opening drive with a 12-play, 69-yard drive. They had a touchdown pass negated because of an ineligible receiver downfield and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Trent Miller.
Miller also connected on a 35-yard field on the second play of the fourth quarter after Strom Thurmond (4-2, 0-1) had a first-and goal but suffered an 11-yard sack on third down.
"We bogged down a little bit when we got into the red zone. - You can’t do that against a team as good as Columbia and expect to win," Sawyer said.
Amick came away pleased with his team’s performance.
"We had some misfires offensively and gave up some yards, but our kids toughed it out," Amick said. "To open this region with a win over Strom Thurmond should give us a boost of confidence the rest of the way."