Jim Sanders' sharp aerial performance and the Raiders' strong defensive effort keyed their playoff win.
By MARK W. MILLER
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NORTH LIMA -- After a first-half struggle, the South Range High football team scored 16 points as it topped Columbia High of Columbia Station 23-0 in a Division V playoff game Friday at the Raiders' stadium.
With 2 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the first half, South Range took over at midfield following a Columbia punt.
In 1:03, quarterback Jim Sanders got the Raiders on the scoreboard.
He began by completing a 22-yard pass to Jason King, and connected with Ryan Maxwell for 12 more yards and a first down at the Columbia 16.
After running back Brad Johnson gained 5 yards, Sanders connected with Brad Vizi for an 11-yard touchdown. Jon Styer made a place kick for the extra point and the Raiders led 7-0 at intermission.
Turning point: "We got that big break just before the half and scored, and if we hadn't done that, it could have been a different game," said South Range coach Dan Yeagley.
South Range (11-0) took charge in the second half. An 82-yard, 12-play drive that used up 6 minutes, 26 seconds of the third quarter put the Raiders in command.
A mix of well-executed, run-and-pass plays during the march ended up when King caught a flare pass from Sanders in the right corner of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. Styer's placement made it 14-0 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
Columbia's first possession in the fourth quarter went nowhere in three attempts, and South Range had the ball again following a punt with 11:11 remaining in the contest.
Five minutes later, Styer kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
Novak sets stage: South Range's Brian Novak intercepted a pass, and the Raiders had the ball on the Columbia 46 with 4:36 remaining.
Novak followed with 27 yards, and it took Johnson three rushes to tally on a 1-yard run to complete the scoring.
"We tried to play good offensively," said Sanders. "It came down to who wanted it and our line got it done.
"The home field advantage helped us," he added. "We never had it in the playoffs before, and that was awesome."
Coach Yeagley said, "Their [Columbia] defense had been solid all year and stopped us in the first half. We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and made some big runs, and that gave us the momentum."
Ace is thwarted: Columbia running back Dustin Intihar, a junior who came into the game with 1,469 yards on 101 carries and 18 touchdowns, was limited to 6 yards on 15 carries.
"We always say someone has to step up and play a big game and our whole defense did that tonight," Yeagley said.
"We had some different defensive schemes to stop Intihar," he added. "He's a great running back and we knew we had to stop him and our defense did that."
Columbia (8-3) was able to gain only 30 rushing yards on 24 attempts, and it completed nine of 21 passes for 98.
Sanders clicks: Sanders missed his first pass of the contest, then completed 11 straight throws and finished with 143 yards. The Raiders gained 154 yards on 36 attempts.
"We played hard, but they shut our running game down," Columbia coach Rick Adams said. "We thought we would be able to stick to our game plan and run the ball, but they played outstanding defense."