A homecoming football game isn't the only thing Columbia High lost last Friday.
With 11:23 remaining in the second quarter of their 28-7 non-league defeat by Tenino, the Bruins lost their chief offensive weapon, senior running back Taylor Champion, to a severe hip pointer. The injury has left Champion's status for tomorrow night's SWW 1A League Trico Division finale at Castle Rock in doubt.
"Taylor's getting treatment, but it's doubtful he'll play Friday," Bruins Coach Matt Whitmire said.
Before he got knocked out of last week's game, Champion rushed for 46 yards to raise his school single-season record total to 1,628. Moreover, it was a scoreless game at the time he departed.
But it didn't remain so much longer after that as the visiting Beavers seized on the Bruins' only turnover of the game.
The takeaway occurred when the Bruins tried for a first down on fourth-and-inches from their own 23-yard line early in the second quarter. They converted the first down but lost a fumble, which the Beavers fell on at CHS's 27.
A minute and 30 seconds later, Tenino led 7-0 on a 9-yard touchdown run and point-after kick by quarterback Ryan Huber, who paced the Beavers with 99 yards rushing and 77 passing.
Before the first half ended, Tenino built a 21-0 advantage with scoring drives of 37 yards (after CHS failed to convert on fourth down) and 56 yards. After a scoreless third quarter, the teams traded rushing touchdowns in the fourth.
Whitmire praised the Bruins' second-half effort on defense but was at a loss to explain why the team, which finished with just 158 yards of offense, struggled offensively.
He said the decision to go for it on fourth down the first time was due, in part, to CHS's lackluster showing on offense.
"I saw that we were flat, that we weren't playing with any emotion," he explained. "We needed to make something happen, and we did. We just didn't count on losing the ball."
Nor did CHS count on losing a game it hoped to use as a springboard for the Castle Rock contest.
"Honestly, I think we looked past Tenino and forgot to play fundamentally sound responsibility football," Whitmire said. "Because of that we won't have the momentum of a win going into Castle Rock."
Kickoff of tomorrow night's Trico Division game at Castle Rock is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Rockets, too, will be looking to rebound from a loss--a 34-13 thumping at La Center last Friday in a game they trailed, 14-0, at halftime.
Moreover, the outcome of the game will determine who gets one of the division's three district playoff spots.
Both the Bruins and the Rockets are 3-2 in league entering Friday's tilt. If the Bruins win, they'll play in Week 10 for a state tournament berth as the Trico's No. 2 or No. 3 team (depending on the result of the Kalama-La Center game).
Should the Rockets win, they will claim third place and a district playoff berth outright. Columbia, for its part, would fall to fifth place and have to settle for a meaningless crossover game against Toledo of the league's Evergreen Division.
"The coaching staff's message to our kids this week will be, `We beat the team that just beat Castle Rock,'" Whitmire said. "And with our best effort on both sides of the ball, we can beat Castle Rock."
The Bruins' keys to defeating the Rockets will be preventing quarterback Clint Burgoyne from making big plays to his favorite receivers, 6-foot-4 Zach Gehring and 6-2 Kyle Karnofski; and sustaining their own offensive drives.
"Talent-wise, Castle Rock is the second-best team in this league," Whitmire said, "and they run the most sophisticated offense we will see this year. They have a lot of weapons, but what makes them go is the play of their quarterback."
In preparation for Burgoyne, et al, Columbia has made personnel changes on defense, putting freshman Dylan Rabinowitz in at cornerback.
"We'll have to be able to cover their twin towers, and Dylan, at 6-3, gives us better matchups in the secondary," Whitmire said. "On top of that, we'll be mixing up our zone and blitzing schemes to disrupt (Burgoyne's) rhythm."
Offensively, if Taylor Champion can't play, the Bruins will turn to junior Luis Roque as the complement to senior fullback Devin Dean. Roque rushed for a career-high 82 yards against Tenino.
"We have to go in with the mentality that we can replace Taylor and that we can block and run the ball against their defense," Whitmire said.