It’s been 36 years since the Coal Bucket resided in Columbus. On a beautiful night for football, under the lights of Pittsburg High School’s Hutchinson Stadium, the 2009 Titan team won the right to bring it Home in a 12 — 10 win over the Purple Dragons.
The Titan offense received the opening kickoff and began their first series on their own 7 yard line. After 2 running plays, Quarterback Damion Tinnin took to the air on third and long hitting Taylor Spear for a 20-yard gain and a first down. Balancing the attack on the ground and in the air Matt Crain made a one handed catch for another first down to move the Titans across midfield. Tinnin connected with Spear again for a 19-yard touchdown pass and the first score of the game. The PAT was blocked but the Titans led 6-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Pittsburg received the kickoff from Brandon Alberty and started their first drive on their own 39 yard line. The Titan defense gave up only one first down and the Dragons were forced to punt.
Columbus followed with a three and out on their second possession. A penalty on the punt gave Pittsburg a first down on their own 38. Damion Tinnin intercepted a Blake Wilson pass and returned it 26 yards to the Dragon 20 yard line. The Titans were within striking distance before Jordan Elliott intercepted a Tinnin pass intended for Crain on the 2 yard line denying a Titan score.
The interception put Pittsburg on their own 5 yard line. Pressure from the defense allowed only a 1 yard gain. The first quarter ended on a failed pass attempt. The game moved to the opposite end of the field for the fourth and 9 punt. Columbus was set to receive the punt in good field position. But, a penalty, roughing the kicker, gave the ball back to the Dragon offense.
The Titan defense stepped back onto the field and held them to a 1-yard gain once again. Brandon Alberty blocked the Elliott punt and Montana Grant recovered on the Pittsburg 33 yard line.
Penalties and lost yardage gave the Titans a fourth and 34 yards to go to a first down in their own territory. Dale Benedict’s 30-yard punt pushed Pittsburg back to their 30 yard line with 7:49 left in the half.
Jace Erwin took the first play from scrimmage 44 yards down field before Wade Robinson chased him down from behind to save a sure score. The stingy Titan defense held the Dragons to no additional gain and the Titan offense took over on downs.
Starting on their own 25 yard line, Dale Benedict picked up a first down. Robinson kept the ball moving with running plays of 12 and 5 yards to a first and goal on the Pittsburg 7 yard line. Benedict picked up more yardages with runs of 3 and 2 yards before crossing the goal line on a 2-yard running play for the Titans second touchdown and a 12-0 lead with 1:32 left in the half. The 2 point conversion attempt failed.
Once again the Titan defense took control following the kickoff. Pittsburg went three and out and punted on fourth and 13 on their 36 yard line.
Matt Crain returned the punt 26 yards giving the offense another possession with 46 seconds until halftime. Tinnin to Benedict pass plays of 16 and 44 yards brought the Titans inside the 5 yard line. Tinnin spiked the ball to stop the clock and set up the next play. Pittsburg intercepted Tinnin for the second time and took a knee to end the half.
The Titans left the field at halftime leading 12-0.
The second half began with the Titans kicking off to the Dragons. The Titan defense came out strong and refreshed and refused the Dragons a first down on their first possession. Taking over on the punt, the Titans began their second half drive on their own 42 yard line.
Keenan Soles stripped Dale Benedict on the first play from scrimmage and returned the take away 47 yards for the first Dragon score. Blake Wilson made good on the point after attempt closing in on the Titans 7-12 with 5 minutes gone in the third quarter.
Both defenses forced 3 and outs in the next two series.
A Titan fumble on their next possession gave the Dragons good field position on the Titan 25 yard line. Titan defenders Chase Leonard and Tank Burns came at their opponents with a tackle for loss and a pass rush that caused an incompletion to hold the Dragons to a field goal. Blake Wilson’s 29 yarder brought his team to within 2 points, 10-12, at the 2:39 mark of the third quarter.
A Titan turnover gave the Pittsburg team another chance with good field position. The Titan defense took the field determined to hold onto their lead and held Pittsburg to a field goal attempt to start the fourth quarter. Wilson’s attempt missed and Columbus took over on their 25 yard line.
Pittsburg’s defense was tough on the Titan offense forcing a fumble and giving their offense yet another shot to steal the game for themselves.
Columbus’ defense accepted the challenge. Matt Crain broke up a pass play in the end zone and his teammates held tight the line to give the ball back to the Titan offense on their 23 yard line with 6:59 left in the game.
Tinnin and his offense moved the ball down the field with running plays from all 3 backs, Dale Benedict, Lewis Kellogg, and Wade Robinson. Tinnin also picked up some rushing yards while Benedict and Crain chipped in with well timed catches to keep the chains moving toward the Pittsburg end zone. Coach Grundy and the coaching staff worked with Tinnin managing the clock and leaving only 56 seconds for the Dragons to work with when they got the ball back on downs.
The Dragons tried to pick up much needed yardage with a pass play on their first down but the ball fell incomplete when Wilson was hurried in the backfield. Shawn Jacobberger caused Wilson to fumble the ball on the second down. Kellogg picked up the loose ball and ran it 19 yards back to the 1 yard line. Grundy chose to take a knee in victory formation rather than try for one more score to end the game.
The Titans met at midfield for the long awaited moment to accept the prize for their labor, the Coal Bucket. Parents, grandparents, future Titans and all the fans, including members of the 1973 team, joined the victors in celebration on the field.
A police escort brought the team buses, a fan caravan, and the beloved Bucket back to Columbus. Waiting with lights blazing and horns honking in parade form were the fire department and scores of fans lining the Maple Street path back to CUHS and the newest home for “OUR” Coal Bucket.
Leading the Titans in yardage, Dale Benedict rushed for 88 yards on 15 carries, including 1 touchdown, and caught 3 passes for 71 yards. Wade Robinson had 62 yards on 12 carries and Lewis Kellogg 54 yards on 12 carries to round out the rushing total.
Matt Crain had 4 receptions for 51 yards and Taylor Spear had 2 catches for 39 yards and 1 touchdown.
Damion Tinnin was 10 of 19 for 162 yards, 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown and 12 yards rushing.
Coach Dan Grundy couldn’t say enough about his defense. “The defense was amazing! Just amazing! We had a few mistakes on offense with turnovers but the defense worked really hard and passed the test.” The defense held Pittsburg to only 103 total yards.
Grundy admitted he had heard about the Coal Bucket tradition before he arrived in Columbus last year. But, he wasn’t aware of the overall record or the deep history and meaning to the community. “It’s great that the seniors could do this.”
Senior Matt Crain reflected on the game and shared his thoughts on the win. “Being a senior this year and getting beat our first three years in high school really gave us a boost to win this game. Pittsburg is Pittsburg and they are going to fight us until the end, but there was just something about it that we knew it was our year. Our defense played phenomenal and our offense made plays when it had to and the fans that came wearing all red and gold let us know we were playing for a lot more than just the bucket, we were playing for all the older people who didn’t get a chance to beat the Dragons and of course the community. We had a good game plan going in and all we had to do was execute and we did and the results were positive for us. . .” The Titans take the field next Friday in Chanute at 7:00.