Columbia High rode the legs of senior running back Andrew Culp to a 43-28 homecoming victory over archrival Stevenson last Friday at CHS Stadium.
Culp rushed for 221 yards--the third time he's topped 200 yards this season--and scored five touchdowns for the Bruins, who exploded for 29 second-half points in overcoming a 21-14 halftime deficit for their second Trico Division win and fourth overall.
"We played as good a half of football as we've played all year, against a pumped-up Stevenson football team," Bruins Coach Matthew Whitmire said of CHS's second-half performance.
Sparked by senior Nolan Kenoyer's fiery locker room speech during the break, the Bruins came out for the third quarter with a commitment to play up to their potential.
"Basically what Nolan said was, we weren't playing Bruin football, we weren't blocking and tackling the way we've been coached, and that message resonated with his teammates," Whitmire said, adding, "For whatever reason, the kids kicked it in in the second half."
Culp scored all four Bruins touchdowns after the intermission--two in the third quarter and two in the fourth--to raise his season total to 13.
"Andrew proved Friday night that he can be a special player," Whitmire said. "He basically put the game on his shoulders and ran with it. And when he's running hard, when our offense is clicking, our defense feeds off it. It's like they want to get the ball back so they can score again."
Led by linebackers Taylor Champion, Devin Dean and Mason Giovannoni, the Bruins defense clamped down on the Bulldogs offense until 2:29 remained in the game.
That level of intensity, however, was lacking in the latter stages of the first half and Stevenson capitalized on its absence.
"Stevenson flat-out came to play Friday night and they showed it," Whitmire said, by outscoring Columbia, 14-0, in the second quarter and taking a seven-point lead at the half.
"We couldn't stop them because we weren't playing fundamentally sound football," Whitmire said. "They ran their offense very well but the bottom line was, we just weren't tackling."
Stevenson tied the game at 14-all with 7:45 remaining in the second quarter when Rob Sourek booted the point-after to Collin Strand's 55-yard punt return--a runback that CHS coaches questioned because Strand's knee appeared to touch the ground as he fielded the kick.
Three minutes later, the Bulldogs used good field position--courtesy of the Bruins after they failed to convert on fourth down in their own end--to take the lead on a 29-yard run by Tyler Moser.
Stevenson's rally erased the 14-7 advantage CHS enjoyed--thanks to a 4-yard run by Culp and a 12-yard pass from Mike Charters to Giovannoni that capped a five-play, 80-yard drive--at the end of the first quarter.
Whitmire, disappointed that his team let the game get away from them, gave credit to Bulldogs Coach Phil Wendell and his coaching staff "for coming up with a nice defensive package" that kept the Bruins scoreless in the second quarter.
But whatever momentum the Bulldogs took to their locker room at halftime quickly shifted back to the Bruins' sideline in the third quarter.
Columbia opened the second half with a drive that culminated in an 8-yard scoring pass from Charters to Culp. When Kyle Earls booted the PAT--after Culp's two-point run for the conversion was nullified by a procedure penalty--CHS squared the score at 21-all.
In its first series of the second half, the Bruins defense also stepped up. On fourth down at CHS's 43-yard line, Dean sacked Sourek for a loss to give Columbia good field position.
The Bruins needed just one play--a 57-yard run by Culp--to regain the lead.
Stevenson eventually pulled within 36-28 when Caleb Scott hooked up with Strand for a 15-yard touchdown with 2:29 to play but its subsequent onside kick attempt was recovered by CHS at midfield.
Culp closed out the scoring with 2:05 to go with a 47-yard run.
Strand scored Stevenson's first touchdown--a 12-yard pass from Sourek--off a deflection by Charters...Stevenson fullback Cory Creighton, the Bulldogs' leading rusher, left the game in the first half after suffering a leg injury...
The annual White Salmon-Stevenson rivalry game had 11 accepted penalties but only one turnover: a Stevenson fumble recovered by CHS's Jarin Ladiges. "Because of the emotional intensity of the game, I was surprised how clean it was," Whitmire said. "It was a good, old-fashioned, hard-hitting football game and we were very fortunate to come out on top."