Eagles clipped at home by Morton in OT, 40-37

Columbia’s Jordan Holmes makes an acrobatic catch during Friday’s game against Morton. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The season opener for Columbia football ended with a stunning home defeat at the hands of Morton in overtime on Friday night, 40-37.

The Eagles jumped out in front in a flash as senior running back Colton Byrd barreled 64 yards down the field for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage to put Columbia up 7-0. It was Byrd’s first of five TDs on the night. He finished with 217 yards rushing on 29 carries.

But Morton presented a bruising rushing attack of its own in Nolan Donald, who scored four times — including the eventual game winner in OT.

The two teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter before Byrd’s one-yard TD run put Columbia up 20-13 with 4:43 before halftime. Key to that scoring drive was a sensational catch by senior wideout Jordan Holmes, who finished with a school record 11 receptions on the night for 89 yards.

Morton marched right down the field on the first possession of the second half, as the Columbia defenders had trouble tackling Donald and other runners much of the night. A nine-yard TD run tied the game at 20-20 at 9:41 of the third quarter.

Columbia starting quarterback Shane Wilhelm apparently injured his arm early in the second half, thrusting sophomore backup Nic Horner into the spotlight. He went 9-for-13 passing with 51 yards on the night and completed a seven-yard pass to Holmes to help set up another Byrd TD run at 5:16 of the third quarter to make it 27-20.

Morton quickly answered with a 41-yard TD run by Donald to tie it up again.

A seven-yard TD run by Byrd put the Eagles back on top at 34-27 at 10:37 of the fourth quarter. Morton converted two fourth downs on the next drive, including a 14-yard TD run on the second fourth down try to tie things up again at 34-34 with 5:32 remaining.

Columbia had a chance to win it in regulation, but a 39-yard field goal try by Sam Horner was blocked.

In Columbia’s first OT possession, Sam Horner nailed a field goal to give the Eagles a 37-34 lead. On the drive, the Columbia coaching staff was upset with officials for failing to call pass interference on a play up the middle.

Morton’s Donald proved to be the hero on this night, scrambling into the endzone on his team’s first OT possession for the game winner.

Dalton Tieman recorded 11 tackles and two fumble recoveries for Columbia on defense.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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