The Columbia High School football team got off to a quick start and kept its cool in a 56-28 home win in the first round of the IHSA Class 4A playoffs Saturday against Roxana.
The Shells tried an onside kick to start the game, which the Eagles recovered at midfield. On Columbia’s very first play, senior running back Donavan Bieber darted down the field for a 51-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0.
The next score came when Columbia senior quarterback Nic Horner danced around Roxana defenders to create an opening for Londyn Little, connecting with a 57-yard TD pass at 5:56 of the first quarter to make it 14-0.
Roxana, refusing to punt, converted multiple fourth down plays and put together a scoring drive that ended with a short TD run at the end of the opening quarter.
Following another onside kick and capitalizing on some Roxana personal fouls, Bieber scored from one yard out within the first minute of the second quarter.
Horner added an 18-yard TD run just two minutes later, then Little caught a 16-yard TD pass to put the Eagles up 35-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Shells were penalized several times on personal fouls, but some of them were offset because Eagles players retaliated.
Roxana scored a rushing TD late in the first half and the teams went into halftime with a 35-14 score.
“Things got a little chippy in the first half and I don’t think we did a very good job of handling it,” Columbia head coach Scott Horner said.
The head coach spent the halftime break telling his team to focus on the task at hand.
“The talk was that we had to get ourselves under control and get our minds back to where they need to be,” Coach Horner said. “We can’t control what the refs are gonna do. We can’t control how their team is. The only thing we can control is what we do. I felt like we did a really good job of that in the second half. We came out and just kept our cool.”
Little snatched a Roxana pass early in the third quarter and ran it in from 30 yards out to extend Columbia’s lead.
Bieber added yet another TD run, this one from seven yards out. Fellow senior running back Ronnie Hunsaker got into the act, taking a handoff straight up the middle for a 27-yard TD run to put the Eagles up 56-14 midway through the third quarter.
With a running clock due to a 42-point scoring margin, Roxana scored two late rushing touchdowns.
“All in all, I thought we did a good job and we took advantage of the possessions that we had,” Coach Horner said.
Bieber, who topped 1,000 rushing yards for the season, finished the day with 137 yards on the ground and three TDs.
Nic Horner threw for 90 yards and ran for 52 more and had three total TDs on the day.
Little, with 75 yards receiving and the interception return, also had three TDs on the day.
Leading the Columbia defense was Dominic Voegele with nine tackles and two assists.
“I was proud of our defense,” Coach Horner said. “I thought they played well.”
Up next is Prairie Central (8-2), which won at Richland County in Olney on Friday night, 35-14. Prairie Central, located northeast of Bloomington in Fairbury, got 250 yards rushing and four TDs from its quarterback in the first round win.
“There are no pretenders left right now,” Coach Horner said. “We’re gonna have to get them off the field so we can score.”
The Eagles have outscored opponents 454-73 on the season.
After Saturday’s win, the Eagles presented Mike “Coach Mike” Kuhlmann with a framed photo collage in honor of his inspiration this season. See a video of the presentation below.