(Kenny Felt/Special to the Tribune)
And for most of the first quarter, the Titans showed it. They went out to a 14-0 lead and looked to score a big upset in Southeast Kansas League play.
But Fort Scott made some adjustments, got some takeaways and responded with six consecutive scores on its way to a 43-22 victory.
(Kenny Felt/Special to the Tribune)
The victory sets up what could well be a battle for the SEK championship next Friday at Pittsburg. The Tigers are 5-0 in the league and overall while Pittsburg is 4-0 in the SEK and 4-1 overall. It will be the last league game of the season for the Purple Dragons.
Columbus' first score was set up by a Fort Scott turnover as Tyler Elmore intercepted a Johnathan Stark pass. The Titans had to go just 35 yards on the drive, scoring when quarterback Travis Jones found A.J. Randle in the flat for a 5-yard touchdown with 5:15 left in the first quarter. The extra point was unsuccessful.
After forcing a punt, the Titans scored in just two plays as Jones hit Dustin Morris in stride along the right sideline for a 57-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 to go. Elmore caught the pass for the two-point conversion.
"We came out kind of flat," Campbell said. "Part of that was to Columbus' credit. They came out and played very well on defense. We didn't do a very good job of executing early on. We put ourselves in a tough situation and they converted some big plays."
Fort Scott changed up its offense and used two big plays on the next possession to get in the board. Dane Cummings' 30-yard gain up the middle set up Jason Thorpe's 25-yard touchdown run on the next play. Jonathan Allen's extra-point kick brought Fort Scott within 14-7 with 1:29 left in the first.
The Tigers put Thorpe out as a receiver to create space -- a veer version of the spread, but with the quarterback remaining under center -- and big gains started coming in the running game.
"We got in our ace set, spread the field out a little bit," Campbell noted. "We tried to make them adjust a little bit. When we did that, all of a sudden we were able to find some more creases inside."
Fort Scott scored on its next possession, going 63 yards in 10 plays, the last of which was Cummings' 3-yard TD run with 7:01 left until halftime. Allen's kick tied the score.
Straton Hunziker broke the tie when he returned an interception 24 yards with 1:41 left in the half. Hunziker picked off another pass on the Titans' next drive as well but the half ran out before the Tigers could get into the end zone.
Hunziker was not only a key on defense; he was also an impact player on offense as he started at tight end in the place of Luke Brown, who had a knee injury. Hunziker made a key catch for a 59-yard gain on Fort Scott's first possession of the second half, getting the ball down to the Columbus four-yard line. Two plays after that, Thorpe scored his second touchdown of the night on a one-yard run. The Tigers led 28-14 with 7:20 left in the third.
Jacob Durossette's interception set up Cummings' second score on another 3-yard run with 4:43 left in the third.
Johnathan Stark intercepted Jones -- the Tigers fourth pick of the night -- to set up Thorpe's 49-yard touchdown with 1:09 left in the period. There was a bad snap on the extra point but Stark, the holder, rolled right and threw to Hunziker for the 2-point conversion to make it 43-14.
"At the high school level, a lot of the game is about confidence," Campbell said.
"Once you get that momentum going in the other direction, it's hard to get it turned around. But the kids did a good job of hanging in, being patient."
Columbus scored late in the game on a defense that included several JV players. A 5-yard run by Zane Roark was followed by Jones' 2-point conversion run with 3:41 remaining.
The Tigers finished with 334 yards of total offense, 249 of that on the ground. Thorpe finished with 115 yards on 13 carries while Cummings found 85 yards on 19 carries. Stark completed 4 of 8 passes for 85 yards. Brady Fink caught 2 for 25 yards.
Columbus finished with 290 yards of offense, 186 of those in the air as Jones completed 12 of 28 passes.