Cougars Can’t Contain Caldwell, Losing 33-17

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The Columbia High School Cougars, doomed again by penalties and stalled momentum in the second half, couldn’t stop James Caldwell High School, losing 33-17 at Underhill Field.

The Cougars started out quickly, with sophomore tailback Kiambu Jones bursting through the line for a 28-yard run. The running game kept the Caldwell defense on its heels, culminating with a 4-yard touchdown by Jones.

The defense kept the momentum going, with cornerback Donte Rolley intercepting a pass from quarterback Jake Zimmerman on Caldwell’s first play from scrimmage. Rolley returned the pick to the nine-yard line. The Cougar offense couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, ultimately missing a 22-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Marc Steiner.

The Caldwell offense responded, quickly moving through the Cougar defense, before tailback John Mannion scored from the one to knot the score.

The Cougars’ senior quarterback, Jimmy Martinez, and senior tailback Kwasi Graham kept the offense moving with runs, moving the ball to the Caldwell 34-yard line. Then Jones took a handoff from Martinez, darted through the line, beating everyone to the end zone to give the Cougars a 14-7 lead.

Caldwell stunned the Cougars on the next play from scrimmage, when Zimmerman rolled out to his left and hit wide receiver Brian Zales, who snuck behind the defensive backs for a game-tying 73-yard touchdown.

Late in the second quarter, with the game tied 14-14, the Cougars drove down the field. After a 36-yard run off left tackle by senior quarterback Jimmy Martinez, short runs by Jones and Kwasi Graham got the ball to the Caldwell six-yard line. After an incomplete pass to C.J. Ibezim, Steiner drilled a 24-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to give the Cougars a 17-14 halftime lead.

The Cougars couldn’t maintain the momentum, with Caldwell controlling the clock on a sustained drive that led to a touchdown by AJ Curtiss. The drive was aided by a questionable personal-foul call on an incomplete third-down pass from Zimmerman to Zales. The Cougars got the ball for the first time in the second half late in the third quarter, but couldn’t generate any sustained offense. Curtiss scored on a three-yard run and James Miller added a 23-yard scamper to finish the scoring.

Coach John Power addressed the team after the game for nearly 10 minutes. Every player listened intently, with no evidence that they were discouraged, despite their 0-6 record.

After the game, Columbia Principal Elizabeth Aaron said simply, “We are never going to stop fighting. That is what the Columbia Cougars do.”

HIGH POINTS: Jones continued his strong play, gaining 165 yards on 21 carries. Jones scored the game’s first touchdown, a five-yard plunge up the middle.

TURNING POINTS: Personal-foul penalties. Each penalty allowed Caldwell to continue a drive in each half, both of which resulted in touchdowns.

DEFENSIVE STALWARTS: Defensive End Will Gibbs led the Cougars with nine tackles;

Linebacker Christian Paul-Pierre and safety Eli Rivera each had eight stops.

VOICE FROM ABOVE: Cougar Assistant coach Nhemie Theodore normally spends the game on the sidelines, but he took to the press box Friday night to be the “eye in the sky”, getting a bird’s-eye view of the offensive and defensive lines at work. The effusive coach spent most of the game putting pressure on the press box framework, leaning out of the window to encourage the team.

UPRIGHT COUGAR BRIGADE: Steiner made one of two field goals against Caldwell Friday night. He hasn’t missed a PAT this year (sorry, hope we don’t jinx him).

NEXT UP: The Cougars will play Nutley in their final home game, at 7 p.m., Friday.

Click on the photos to view our gallery of the game:

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