By Ryan Jones
COLUMBIANA — In the first half Columbiana lost a fumble, committed four penalties and failed to score from the South Range 10-yard line after the Raiders fumbled the opening kickoff.
Clippers coach Bob Spaite said the halftime speech he gave his team wasn’t anything special.
“We had what we refer to as a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting,” he said. “Honestly, it didn’t take very long. I pointed out several things that had to change in the second half and they listened. I was blunt, but I was proud of the way they took the criticism and made the corrections.”
Whatever Spaite said came to fruition in the second half as Columbiana rolled up 217 yards en route to a 20-0 victory.
The Clippers (8-2) came into the season finale ranked No. 2 in Division VI, Region 23.
“I’m pretty sure we earned a home game by winning tonight,” Spaite said. “I’m sure there is a mathematical scenario where we wouldn’t have a home game, but I think six or seven things would have to happen for us to be on the road.”
Columbiana’s Grant Crider made his presence felt on both sides of the ball. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior scored on runs of 7 and 1 yards, tallied a sack from his inside linebacker spot and intercepted the Raiders’ Jake Oliver with about 3:40 remaining to secure the win.
Spaite said Crider has been a great leader for his squad.
“We moved Grant from free safety to inside linebacker this past week,” he said. “There aren’t many kids who could make that move. I really believe he’s one of the best 22 players from the area, or whatever they call it. He has the versatility to be a star at more than one position.”
Backfield mate Jeff Davidson led the Clippers with 142 yards on 17 carries. The junior fullback scored on a 68-yard touchdown run to give Columbiana a 20-0 lead with 7:27 left in the game.
“Jeff Davidson’s a workhorse,” Spaite said. “He’s done a great job taking over for Nick Roncone. Jeff and Austin Barbato [13 carries, 65 yards] came into tonight’s game being close to 1,000 yards on the season. I think Austin had around 880 yards and Jeff 760 or so.”
South Range’s stout defense limited Columbiana to 90 total yards in the first half.
“We played a great first half,” said South Range coach Dan Yeagley said. “Our defense played well and even though we left ourselves in poor position we turned them away each time. Give Columbiana, Coach Spaite and their staff credit, they made the adjustments they needed to at halftime.”
Yeagley said he hopes his team can learn from their trying season.
“Our seniors did a great job for us,” he said. “It was a tough season for them and for us. You never plan on going 2-8, but it happened. We have a lot of work to do for next year, but we got a lot of experience for some of our younger guys.”
Spaite said his team has to cut down on penalties if they are going to be successful in the postseason.
“We were prepared emotionally and mentally to play tonight, but we didn’t execute,” he said. “Penalties happen for one of two reasons, either lack of discipline, or lack of self-control. Tonight we lacked discipline in the first half. That cost us, and we won’t go very far in the playoffs if we can’t correct that. All of this starts with me; I’ve got to do a better job making sure we play disciplined football.”