The Columbia Eagles scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to down Cahokia Conference rival Freeburg at home, 33-14, in a first round IHSA Class 4A playoff football showdown on Saturday.
“Our kids came out and made plays when they needed to,” Columbia head coach Scott Horner said.
The game was a rematch of a thrilling Sept. 28 contest that was won by Columbia in the final minute, 38-34.
The Eagles found themselves down 14-6 early in the third quarter on Saturday when their playmakers decided to take over.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers out there,” Horner said.
Runs by Donavan Bieber and Londyn Little dominated a Columbia drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nic Horner to Little to make it a 14-12 game with 4:16 remaining in the third.
On the ensuing drive, Sam Horner made his second interception of the day to put the Eagles at Freeburg’s 30 yard line. A solid run by Bieber and a Freeburg facemask penalty added to the positive momentum, and a nine-yard TD run on a QB sneak by Nic Horner gave Columbia the lead. Nic Horner added a two-point conversion run to put the Eagles up 20-14 with less than three minutes left in the third frame.
Sam Horner was playing outside linebacker for the first time this season due to injuries on Columbia’s defense. In addition to his two interceptions, he kicked two 31-yard field goals in the first half to put the Eagles up 6-0.
Columbia’s defense kept Freeburg on lockdown after its offense gained the lead, and a 60-yard TD pass from Nic Horner to Little furthered Columbia’s edge to 26-14 early in the fourth quarter.
Bieber, who returned to the starting lineup just in time after missing several weeks to injury, put the icing on the cake with a five-yard TD run to put Columbia up 33-14 with less than three minutes left in the game.
Bieber carried the ball 38 times for 191 yards on the day.
“That was an awesome, gutsy performance by that kid,” Coach Horner said. “Our line did a great job, which was huge.”
Fellow running back Ronnie Hunsaker missed Saturday’s contest due to a calf injury sustained in the regular season finale. He leads the team with more than 1,000 total yards and 16 TDs on the season.
Little finished with 124 yards receiving on four catches and 43 yards rushing on four carries. Nic Horner was 6-for-12 passing for 172 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He also ran for 32 yards.
Zach Kannewurf made two fumble recoveries and Eli Wagner finished with 10 tackles to lead Columbia’s defensive effort.
The Eagles (8-2) advance to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs, where they will play at undefeated Taylorville next Saturday at 5 p.m.
“They’re gonna be a really good, fast, aggressive football team, so we’ll have to play as good as we did today and then some,” Coach Horner said of next weekend’s matchup.