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Dynasty in the Making? Columbus Defends State Football Crown

Updated: Jan 30

By Eddie Lopez

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

In pursuit of back-to-back state championships, the Explorers faced off against Mandarin at Bragg Memorial Stadium. This would be the second time that these two faced off in the state championship and Columbus looked for revenge after losing in 2018.

First Quarter

Columbus won the toss and deferred. The first drive of the game resulted in a 3 and out for Mandarin after Columbus was able to shut down their talented running back, Tiant Wyche from a great tackle by Adrian Leonard.  

Then, Alberto Mendoza used his legs to get three consecutive first downs. Edward "Speedy" Bandy was able to bring the Explorers to the one-yard line then Hector Chavez and Willis McGahee were brought in for the wildcat formation. Hector showed off his versatility and ran straight through the defense for a touchdown with some great blocking as well from the O-Line and McGahee.

7-0 Explorers.

Video provided by CCNN Live

Mandarin struggled to move the ball again and got shut down by the Columbus defense. 

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

The next drive for the Explorers offense started off with a huge gain of 47 yards from tight end Benji Blackburn to get inside the 10.  Agyeman Addae had a scrappy run and punched his way through to the endzone for their second touchdown.

14-0 Explorers

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Mandarin was able to get their first significant gain of the game and kept the momentum rolling to get into Columbus territory with a 10-yard pass and then another 15-yard run by Deshard Westcott. Then, wide receiver and Alabama commit Jamie Ffrench Jr. scores on a 15-yard perfectly thrown pass. They went for two-point conversion but after a flag decision to go for one and missed the PAT.

14-6 Explorers still lead. 

After Another run by Mendoza, the Explorers took the lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter

The second quarter was one to remember for Bandy. Bandy broke for a 12-yard run, and then exploded for a 49-yard run two plays later. He finished off the great drive by scoring the touchdown as well.

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

21-6 Explorers.

Mandarin was able to produce another good drive after three straight 1st downs but the Columbus defense stopped them in their tracks forcing them to go for it, which was not successful. Columbus found a good rhythm until the ball was stripped from running back Aggeman Addae after a long run.

Mandarin took advantage and marched down field led by a great catch by Josiah Watkins and a long run from running back Wyche. The Mustangs were forced to go for it on 4th and converted with a 20-yard touchdown from Wyche.

21-13 Explorers lead.

Third Quarter

The third quarter was an eventful one for the Explorers. They started with the ball and Bandy was able to lead the offense downfield with a huge gain after a catch. Mendoza then used his legs yet again to get a first down. Receiver Jose Leon got the offense within the ten with a great catch. Then Bandy powered through to get the ball to the one. Bandy then got in for his second touchdown of the night.

28-13 Explorers.

Video provided by CCNN Live

Mandarin started the drive with good field position after a good return and continued rolling with a first down. Then a nasty juke from Ffrench caused two Explorers to collide and Ffrench escaped for the touchdown. The Mustangs failed to convert the two-point conversion.

28-19 Explorers still lead.

The Mandarin defense was finally able to get to Alberto Mendoza on this drive causing the team to punt for the first time. 

Mandarin came out firing with a 20-yard gain. Then converting on third down. The defense was able to force a field goal which was eventually missed.

Mendoza showed off his legs yet again with a 37-yard run, his longest of the game.

Columbus still led going into the 4th quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The Explorers put the game away in the 4th quarter. Bryce Fitzgerald showed off his shiftiness with a nasty move making both defenders miss and walked into the endzone.

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

35-19 Explorers

Daylen Russell recovered the ball from mandarin for the first turnover for Mandarin giving Columbus the ball back again. 

Kicker Robert Czeremcha added on to his impressive night with a 37-yard field goal.

38-19 Explorers

The Explorers defense did what they do best, and shut down the Mandarin offense yet again causing a turnover on downs. 

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

The Explorers lined up in victory formation and the celebration began.

Postgame notes 

For the second straight year, the Explorers are champions and do it dominantly.

It was a successful season and a great game from this group. The seniors left their mark on Columbus football history by winning the chip on their last game, and in back-to-back seasons.

Coach Dave Dunn has now won his 3rd state championship in five years. 

Both the Offense and Defense were at their best.

The backfield of "Speedy Bandy" and Agyeman Addae combined for three touchdowns.

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

The play calling was great and Alberto Mendoza did major damage with the RPO rushing for almost 200 yards.

Coach Dunn told, "We felt like we could establish the run and we felt like we could do it with Alberto...We've lost one playoff game in the last five years so we're pretty happy."

Bryce Fitzgerald was able to score as well and was all over the field on defense.

The defense did an amazing job locking down the talented Mandarin offense.

Hector Chavez and Willis McGahee seemed to be everywhere in the game and had some great stops on defense.

Alberto Mendoza had this to say after the game: "There's nothing I else I would want more to go out with than going out with my guys in the last game of my high school career. I'm ready to go to the next level, I love these guys to death. We had our ups and downs we faced adversity, the whole team had injuries but at the end of the day we are champions."

Columbus football proved once again that it is a force to be reckoned with and now celebrate another great season.

Photo Credit: @TakesByTyler/ CCNNLive

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