Trick and Treat! Cougars Beat Livingston, 16-7

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The trick all season for the Columbia Cougars has been to play a full game, not letting second-half letdowns ruin their chances for victory. On Halloween, they got the best treat of the season, dominating the last two quarters to beat Livingston High School, 16-7.

“I am just so happy for these kids,”said head coach John Power. “Boy, football is a tough game and these kids have never stopped working this season. They have supported each other, no matter what they endured. It’s a big win for our program.”

Livingston dominated play in the first half, controlling the ball with runs by senior halfbacks Ryan Cheesman and Johnny Schreiber. The 1-7 Cougars’ defense never let the Lancers into the end zone and the teams went to the end zone in a scoreless tie.

After Columbia and Livingston each started the second-half with three-and-outs, the Cougars went on a sustained drive, with sophomore tailback Kiambu Jones handling the bulk of the carries. Senior tailback Kwasi Graham also supplied another fresh pair of legs and burst through the line for a 20-yard gain on the drive that culminated with a 21-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Jimmy Martinez.

“That was a planned double slant route, the play we scored on last week against Nutley,” Power said. “But Jimmy saw the receivers were covered, pulled it down and took off. He made a great move and certainly made us look good.”

Livingston quickly turned it on, scoring just three minutes later to tie the score, 7-7. But Columbia showed the resolve it has been developing all season, eating up clock into the fourth quarter. Martinez scored on an eight-yard scramble with 5:50 remaining in the game. Then it was up to the defense, which contained the Lancers. Columbia got the ball back and milked the clock until they punted with about one minute left in the game. After two incomplete passes and a penalty, an errant snap led to a safety with .3 of a second left.

“We made a couple of adjustments at halftime and our defense really stepped up,”Power said. “I am so happy for our seniors to get over the hump. Jimmy played great and Kwasi ran really hard. He came up huge today.

“We will enjoy this now,” Power said. “But now we have to prepare for Irvington.”

TURNING POINT (OFFENSE): Cougars quarterback Martinez made three important plays Friday night without ever receiving the snap from center. Martinez took advantage of the aggressive Lancers defensive line by altering the cadence of his count, getting them to jump offsides. The five-yard penalties in each occasion kept drives going, including their two scoring drives.

MR. INSIDE, MR. OUTSIDE: Jones and Graham dominated the game, with dive plays up the middle and pitches to the corner. They each gained tough yardage and kept the Lancers defense on their heels.

TURNING POINT (DEFENSE): Will Gibbs pressured quarterback Matt Gibbon relentlessly late in the game, making two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and forcing Gibbon into early throws that fell for incompletions and forced Livingston into punting to the Cougars, which led to their fourth-quarter scoring drive.

OH, WHAT A RELIEF IT IS! The exuberant Cougars understandably had a hard time containing themselves after the Livingston safety. They thought the game was over and proceeded to celebrate and line up for the postgame handshake. But there was more work to do…

HALLOWEEN SCARE: After giving up the safety with .3 of a second left in the game, the Livingston punter sent a scorcher toward Martinez and freshman returner Greg Fong-Wilson. The pair converged on the ball. It was free on the ground before they piled on top of it and the Lancers tried to pry it free as time expired.

NEXT GAME: Cougars will try to finish the season with their second straight victory when they play Irvington High School, at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7.

Click on any photo to view the slideshow of game photos below:

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