ALTAMONT — The Columbus Titans earned a spot in the 4A state playoffs for the third year in a row, behind at 27-25 win over the Labette County Grizzlies in the final round of district play Thursday night.
After a first half in which the Titans and a net negative nine yards rushing, Columbus came out strong in the second half to win the game and improve to 5-4 and 2-1 in district play.
“At half time we challenged the offensive line and they came through,” Titan Head Coach Dan Grundy said. “I give every credit to our O line they played a great second half.”
The first half was almost all Labette.
The Grizzlies drew first blood on a one yard run by Quarterback Keaton Turner with just 2:56 left in the first quarter.
With just 53 seconds left in the first the Titans recovered their own punt setting up their first score of the game, a 10 yard pass from Travis Jones to Brandon Alberty. The point after kick was good and the score was tied 7-7 with 11:46 to go in the half.
The Grizzlies struck back just a few minutes later on another one yard run by Turner. Their kick failed, however and going into the half the Grizzlies were up 13-7 and hopes were dimming.
The Titans came roaring back in the second half, however, behind Chase Leonard and Shawn Jacobberger.
“We decided to put the two big monsters in the backfield and see if we could run it,” Grunday said, adding Leonard, a 6 foot 220 pound senior, and Jacobberger a 6 foot 1 inch, 235 pound senior may see more playing time Tuesday against Chanute.
“If that‘s what its going to take to run the ball that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
The Titans came out in the second half behind those two big backs, and went to work.
With 9:39 left in the third quarter the Titans picked up their first lead of the game on a four yard run by Jacobberger. B.T. O’Hara added the point after and the Titans were up 14-13.
Just three minutes later Labette took the lead back on a 5 yard pass from Turner to Christian Hosey. The two point conversion was stopped and the Grizzlies were up 19-14.
Columbus answered back with an eight yard pass from Jones to Owen Jordan to go up 20-19 with 8:08 left in the game.
Just a few minutes later, the Titans appeared to put a stake in the heart of the Grizzlies with an 80 yard punt return for a touch down by Dustin Morris. O’Hara added the kick and the Titans were up 27-19 with 4:48 left.
Labette was far from done, however, and marched down field and with just 37 seconds left in the game Turner connected with Cole Traxon for a 15 yard touchdown pass and overtime loomed if the Grizzlies could make the two-point conversion. The Titans were able to break up the pass and the score stood 27-25.
Labette attempted an on-side kick which rolled out of bounds, giving the Titans the win.
Columbus, 5-4, faces the Chanute Blue Comets Tuesday night for the Regional title. Chanute is 7-2, but one of the two losses came early in the season at the hands of the Titans.
Grundy knows he’s facing a tough game.
“They’ve got two running backs that are very very good,” he said. “We’re going to have to be physical up front and contain the run first.”
Game time is 7 p.m. in Chanute.