CHANUTE — It may have been Election Day across the nation, but it was “Columbus Day” for the Chanute High School football team.
And if there was any voting on Tuesday night in Chanute, Jared McComb would be the likely winner of Most Valuable Player.
A junior running back, McComb scored seven touchdowns in Chanute’s 58-35 win over the Columbus Titans in a first round Bi-District game of the Class 4A state playoffs at the Chanute Community Sports Complex on a chilly Tuesday.
The win accomplished two things for the Blue Comets. For starters, the Comets advanced to play on Saturday night in a second-round playoff game.
“We lived to play another day,” Chanute Coach Don Simmons said. “This is really great.”
The Comets exacted some revenge, too. Columbus defeated Chanute 35-31 in Week Three of the season. But McComb was not 100 percent healthy for that contest.
“We definitely wanted revenge tonight,” McComb said.
The importance of a healthy McComb was on full display on Tuesday night.
Unofficially, McComb ran 19 times for 287 yards. Basically, McComb ran all over the Titans defense.
“We’re a completely different team now than we were when we played over there,” Simmons said. “McComb had really only practiced one time and only carried the ball five times that game. He was a non-factor. He ran with a vengeance tonight. He ran hard and he ran fast. It was fun to see.”
After the win, McComb stayed humble.
“I can’t do anything without the line,” McComb said. “They deserve the credit, not me.”
Simmons noted the play of the line, as well.
“The offensive line did a good job of blocking and the receivers blocked well downfield, too.”
Chanute senior Eric Bowman reached the endzone once for the Comets and also set up a few of McComb’s scores with long runs. With McComb and Bowman, along with junior quarterback Grant McMillan, the Comets proved tough to stop on the ground.
Columbus Coach Dan Grundy said Chanute’s rushing attack was tough to contain.
“Their backfield is a lot stronger now that McComb is healthy and that made a huge difference,” Grundy said. “They attacked the weakest areas of our defense. They had a good game plan.”
Chanute needed only five plays to get on the board at the start of the game. McComb scored his first touchdown on a 28-yard run. Renato Boarin kicked the PAT.
The Titans got on the board with a 49-yard run by Owen Jordan. BT O’Hara kicked the PAT and the game was tied with 3:29 left in the first period.
Chanute fumbled and the Titans recovered with good field position on the 32.
A few plays later, Travis Jones connected with Jordan for a 34-yard touchdown. The PAT was good and Columbus led 14-7.
In the second period, McComb had a huge run down the sideline and ran in from five yards out on the next play. The kick was good.
But Columbus scored on a one yard pass to Chase Leonard, the kick was good and it was 21-14 in favor of the visitors.
Later, Bowman had a long run to the one yard line. McComb charged in on the next play. Boarin’s kick tied the game at 21.
Mitchell Hale intercepted a Titans pass on the next series and the Comets then took the lead for good.
McMillan connected on two key passes during the drive, one to Alec Haight and another on a deep ball to Griffin Williams.
A few plays later, McComb scored from three yards out. The kick failed, but the Comets led 27-21 with 1:13 left in the half.
After the half, Brandon Bell’s kick return gave the Comets good field position.
McComb did the rest. He sprinted past the Titans defense for a 30-yard score. Bowman then ran in for two.
The Titans kept coming, however.
Jordan passed to Brandon Alberty for a 14-yard touchdown at the 6:27 mark. The kick was good and Chanute’s lead was 35-28.
From that point, however, it was all Chanute.
McComb took a handoff and ran 65 yards around the right end to the endzone on the first play from scrimmage for Chanute. The kick made it 42-28.
Next, Williams intercepted a Titans pass and ran to the 17.
Bowman ran three times, with a two yard touchdown run finishing off the drive. Boarin’s kick was good again and the Comets had some breathing room at 49-28.
Coach Grundy said his team’s mistakes cost them.
“Our kids made some mistakes with turnovers at times and things just ballooned on us,” Grundy said.
On the other hand, the Comets had a couple of miscues early, but had none after the half.
“Once we got a turnover and some penalties out of our system early, they weren’t going to stop us,” Simmons said. “Our offense is rolling pretty well right now.”
The Comets put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
Chanute’s Haight and Austin Richard sacked Titans QB Jones in the endzone for a safety.
After the Titans kicked off, Chanute needed only three plays to score again. McComb once again showed his ability to accelerate past the Titans defense. The TD run from 22 yards out came with 10:30 left. After the PAT kick, Chanute was up big at 58-28.
Coach Simmons got his subs into the game. Columbus scored a late touchdown for the final margin.
The Comets improved to 8-2 on the season. The Titans end at 5-5.
Editor’s note: This story is part of a cooperative agreement between the Advocate and the Tribue to share coverage of road games between the publications.